D65 expands teacher residency program and introduces teacher apprenticeship program to strengthen community impact


Jorge Melendez/The Daily Northwestern

Image of Orrington Elementary School, an Evanston Skokie School District, on a sunny day.

Kristen Axtman, Reporter

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 launched a new teacher apprenticeship program to improve an existing teacher residency program this September, addressing an anticipated teacher shortage and hiring a more diverse teaching staff. 

The district announced that it will partner with BloomBoard, Inc, an organization that partners with school districts to strengthen their staff. First, the organization will select 10 paraprofessionals, assistant-teachers with associate’s degrees, who will receive their bachelor’s degrees and enter a teacher apprenticeship program. 

Andalib Khelghati, District 65 assistant superintendent for human resources, said the teacher apprenticeship program will expand teaching opportunities to people who do not have a master’s degree and recruit a more diverse workforce. 

Khelghati said higher education has historically excluded people of color. According to the US Department of Education, in 2018 82% of teachers were white, compared to 48% of students. 

“The vision of this work really stems from the District 65 education board and its journey around really prioritizing the need for recruiting and bringing in more educators of color,” Khelghati said.

Participants will start the program in October and are projected to finish the program, which includes 20 credits of college coursework totalling 60 hours of classes, in about two years. 

The program is free for participants and will cost the district $135,000. District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton said in a Sept. 14 Personnel, Building & Grounds, & Finance Committee meeting that the district plans to pay through the first year with grant money. The second year is not fully paid for, but the district is looking into possible grants. 

Joey Hailpern, District 65 Board Member, said in the September meeting that nothing compares to a hands-on education. The opportunity for these students to learn while keeping their classroom jobs is significant. 

“It’s a really good opportunity for our district to not go through a hiring crisis like we’re having with our bus drivers,” Hailpern said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, D65 has experienced significant trouble in hiring and retaining bus drivers. 

Halipern said that communities around Evanston are experiencing a teacher shortage, and he expects to see reduced involvement in the coming years. That reality, he added, makes the partnership with BloomBoard, Inc a great decision.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago area has experienced the largest teacher shortage of any area in the state. Northeastern school districts in Illinois had the second-highest number of unfilled positions at 1,370, second only to the city itself. 

Horton said in the September meeting that training paraprofessionals from District 65 is a long-term investment; the program will help strengthen their education system since participants will already know the needs of the district.

“Every district is unique, so we’re trying to build teachers that are specifically trained to be highly effective here in our district,” Horton said.

District 65 is increasing the number of residents pursuing master’s in special education, aiding students who need individualized instruction. Additionally, the district has hired a second talent developer for their new cohort to help residents balance classes and courses.

The residency program will now be two years instead of one, thanks to a $600,000 grant awarded by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Khelghati said. 

The district also increased the stipend for residents from $30,000 to $45,000. Khelghati said the district is proud of providing financial assistance to aspiring educators in the Evanston community.

“Over time, opportunities in education are one of those fields that make it even more difficult (to enter) because of the financial burden that is placed across the board for anybody who’s interested,” he said. 

The program also partnered with a Pacific Educational Group to introduce a racial equity series for residents. 

In that program, residents will look “at the systemic impact of the way in which racism or inequity or homophobia will show up in our biases,” Khelghati said. 

With the new model, participants will do their residency at Chicago State University instead of Northwestern University or National Louis University. According to Khelghati, Chicago State University’s long history of teacher education and its semester structure matched District 65’s goals.

18 residents graduated from District 65’s initial cohort that ran from June 2021 to June 2022. This year, there are nine people in the residency program. 

“(The programs) are all embedded under the same vision around what we’re calling create, which is really building and growing our own staff,” Khelghati said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @KristenAxtman1

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