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Column | On Campus

Meera Komarraju: School of Education reconnects with the Southern Illinois region

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Building on its origin as a Teacher’s College, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s reorganized School of Education is reigniting connections with area schools and educators throughout Southern Illinois. The School is focused on addressing teacher shortages and improving student-learning outcomes.

Grow Your Own Educators

To meet a statewide shortage of special education teachers, the School of Education is working with Grow Your Own (GYO) Illinois in recruiting and preparing new educators. The GYO program provides tuition and other financial assistance, flexible course schedules, mentoring and academic support, collaboration with area schools, and professional development for new teachers after graduation. GYO participants working in area schools can use their existing districts, schools, and classrooms as sites for their practicum experiences, including student teaching. The SIUC/GYO partnership is also enrolling early childhood educators to meet the critical shortage among teachers of young children that is expected to grow substantially over the coming years.

This summer, the school’s special education program offered an accelerated three-course sequence for classroom teachers in the Mount Vernon area to earn the Learning Behavior Specialist 1 (LBS1) endorsement. Teachers enrolled in this course sequence can also participate in a Fall workshop to prepare for the LBS1 test.

Educators Rising

To promote interest in education as a career, the School of Education is partnering with Shawnee Community College, John A. Logan College, and nine area high schools as part of an Illinois State Board of Education-funded Education Career Pathways grant. This grant aims to develop high school students’ interest in education as a viable career, prepare them for postsecondary education, and engage them in hands-on teaching-related activities led by the Educators Rising programs at the high school.

Fifty Educators Rising students from six high schools visited the School of Education in early May. This fall plans are afoot to invite area superintendents and high school principals to discuss the promotion of education careers among high school students, and the diverse pathways leading to a career in education. The School of Education was excited to offer the popular Challenge to Excellence summer camp this past July and about 15 high school students and four camp counselors participated in a variety of academic and recreational activities throughout the week-long residential camp at SIUC.


An exciting new initiative is a partnership project with SIUC’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center called CleanSoIL (“Clean Southern Illinois”). It is focused on raising awareness of littering problems along local highways and in our parks and recreation areas, with an eye toward increasing tourism and economic development in the region. Faculty members and Touch of Nature staff are collaborating to develop, implement, and evaluate an environmental science curriculum for participating area grade schools.

By partnering with area school districts including Carbondale Elementary District 95 and Carbondale Community High School District 165, our teacher candidates enhance their professional preparation by observing classrooms, tutoring students, and student teaching. Our faculty appreciate the opportunity to provide professional development programs for teachers and working with school administrators to improve public education. The School of Education also welcomes partnership opportunities with diverse communities throughout southern Illinois, including businesses and industries, community-based and nonprofit organizations, and organizations that support youth development.

Meera Komarraju is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.


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