State and Local Groups Work to Address Teacher Shortage in Southern Illinois | Education

The 2021 survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) and its educational and research partners shows what many people already know.

The shortage of educators in Illinois is worse than ever.

Student teacher Dashia Jones goes over a maths problem in Kelly Flamm’s fifth year class at Cobden Primary School on Friday in Cobden.

Byron Hetzler

Statewide, 88% of districts responding to the survey reported having a teacher shortage. When it comes to substitute teachers, 96% of districts lack substitute teachers.

Lorie LeQuatte, regional superintendent of schools, saw higher numbers for RE 21, which serves Franklin, Johnson, Massac and Williamson counties.

“We have a teacher shortage,” LeQuatte said. “Ninety-five percent of superintendents say they have a teacher shortage and 100 percent say they have a sub-shortage.”

One of the things LeQuatte found remarkable is that all of the ROE school districts responded to the survey, so she said the numbers were very accurate.

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She added that 10% of vacancies for this school year remained vacant or filled by unqualified people.

LeQuatte sees positive steps to change this shortage in southern Illinois.

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Earlier this month, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton visited with education students at Southern Illinois University. She spoke to a few students about their experiences to find out what the state could do to help those studying education.

First and foremost, Stratton learned that young people who study education are dedicated not only to building their careers, but also to building the character of their students.

Stratton found that some things are rare. The resources future educators need are limited, including time. Students work and teach at the same time, leaving little time for school or family activities.

“What have we heard and what can we do as a state to make Illinois a better place to raise children?” Stratton asked.

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She also said the state wants to focus on recruiting teachers from minorities and different socioeconomic backgrounds to bring more diversity into education.

Dashia Jones of Belleville is one of the education students who met with the Lieutenant Governor. She is currently a student teacher at Cobden Primary School.

“I loved offering my suggestions from my own teaching experiences,” Jones said. “It was very inspiring.”


Student teacher Dashia Jones works with a pupil on a maths problem in Kelly Flamm’s fifth year class at Cobden Primary School on Friday in Cobden.

Byron Hetzler

Her education degree specializes in primary education and early childhood development. She will be certified to teach children from kindergarten through third grade.

Another group working to address the teacher shortage is the Southern Illinois Future Teachers Coalition, an organization formed in June 2021. Brook May leads this group for Vienna High School.

“We see our efforts grow and grow so much,” May said.

Southern Illinois Future Teachers Coalition (SIFTC) is a partnership between John A. Logan College, Shawnee Community College, Southern Illinois University, Illinois State Board of Education, and nine high schools in southern Illinois, including Anna-Jonesboro, Carterville, Cobden, Johnston City, Joppé, Massac, Méridien, Vienna and West Frankfurt.

“We realize that to address the teacher shortage, we need to look at the students who are attending our secondary schools right now,” she said.

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Schools have created clubs for anyone interested in pursuing a career in education. They use career exploration to connect these students with teacher mentors and in classrooms to work with children. May said it gives them a good idea if teaching is a career for them.

“Through mentorship, they start to know where their niche is. Finally, we are seeing a regional strategy in southern Illinois,” May said.

They also tell club members about other people who work in the schools, such as social workers, counsellors, administrators and others. These professionals are also rare.

The SIFTC is planning an event to bring together future teachers from all the high schools involved. “We want to put aside these football or basketball rivalries and come together,” she said.

All the groups try to revalorize the title of “professor”. They want everyone, especially future educators, to know that teaching is not a job, it’s a profession.

LeQuatte said their schools receive 50 to 70 applications for each teaching position. Today, they are lucky to have an application. They also try to mentor and encourage those who have obtained their administrative licenses but do not want to be administrators.

Recently, ROE 21 held the first of its three “Subs for Subs” events. The event provides information and training for those interested in becoming trainee teachers. ROE 21 provided training on curriculum, daily duties, and policies and procedures. Louie’s P&R provided the subs.

They will host two more events, one in March and one in April.

LeQuatte said that due to recent changes, anyone with 60 hours of college can be a short-term substitute.

The state also offers unqualified teachers with credentials that can be used in education a chance to get certified.

For more information on licensing to be a teacher or substitute, visit your regional education office’s website.

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