Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton talks funding for future educators during visit to NIU in DeKalb

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DeKALB – Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton visited Northern Illinois University in DeKalb Monday on a final stop of her statewide higher education tour, meant to emphasize the governor’s work to prioritize funding for education and future teachers.

As a future elementary education teacher, NIU Senior Kristal Angeles said that she wants to be a positive example for her students.

On Monday, Angeles and other NIU students met with Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton during a visit to campus. The lieutenant governor spoke about education with the students prior to holding a news conference highlighting ongoing teacher shortages and what she said was a need to diversify hiring pipelines for future educators.

“Meeting and talking with the Lieutenant Governor has made me hopeful for what being an educator will look like,” Angeles said. “It made me feel like our voices matter. She was listening, writing notes and using her higher resources to help us. She knows that there’s a teacher shortage, and she’s listening to future teachers to determine what will help.”

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Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, flanked by Northern Illinois University education students, speaks Monday, May 2, 2022, in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center at NIU. Stratton was visiting to talk to students and staff in the education department to mark Teachers Awareness Week. Stratton also toured the campus food pantry and met the media. (Mark Busch – mbusch@shawmedia.com/Mark Busch – mbusch@shawmedia.co)

According to a data dashboard published in January 2022 by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 88% of schools across the state say they have a teacher shortage problem, and 77% report the shortage is getting worse.

Monday also marked the start of Teacher Appreciation Week, which runs through May 6.

Stratton said education is a priority of the governor’s office, and funding in the state’s budget is marked for future educators.

“I think it’s a time for all of us to pause and think about the impact that a teacher has had on our life and what we need to do as a state to better support [educators], and that’s something Gov. Pritzker’s been focused on,” Stratton said. “In this recent budget, $12 billion is going to education […] and over $600 million is going to [Monetary Award Program] grants to make school more accessible to our students.”

Laurie Elish-Piper, NIU’s Dean of the College of Education, said that she was thrilled to welcome Stratton to campus. Last week, the dean took part in a future educators conference hosted by NIU for DeKalb and Kane County high school students.

“It shows that these topics are definitely a priority for her and the state of Illinois,” Elish-Piper said. “She was very interested in meeting with the students and learning from them. She heard the experiences and challenges they had while student teaching, as well as why they want to be teachers. It was a powerful, meaningful discussion.”

Bryanna Howard, a senior who studies special education at NIU, said that Stratton’s visit to NIU made her feel supported and encouraged as a teacher.

“She can make a difference, and she told us that so can we,” Howard said. “I now have the courage that changes will happen.”

Stratton said her late mother and her sister were public school educators.

“I grew up knowing the power of education,” Stratton said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today, serving as lieutenant governor, without some incredible teachers in my life. […] We need to continue to lift up the voices of teachers and educators at every level, and we have to let them know they are supported and appreciated.”

While on NIU’s campus, Stratton toured the Huskie Food Pantry and received updates on the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability (NICCS) project and the university’s partnership with DeKalb County Community Gardens.

Stratton said that NIU was her last stop in visiting the state’s public higher education institutions.

“There’s so much more work that we need to do, and we are digging in,” Stratton said. “We’re starting a new chapter in our efforts to make Illinois the best state in the nation to send your child to school.”

via Shaw Local

May 2, 2022 at 07:50PM

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