Grow Your Own Program Cultivates Teachers for Area Classrooms

Chicago Heights, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Denise Kranzer and Michelle Robinson volunteered in their neighborhood elementary schools because they wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people.Both Kranzer and Robinson dreamt of becoming teachers, but neither had completed their bachelor’s degree.

Kranzer, of Monee, started her path to a bachelor’s degree in education nine years ago. For five years, she took classes at Prairie State College one at a time while she raised her children, coached t-ball and cheerleading, ran a home daycare, and volunteered in her local school.

However, the busy mother of four will realize her dream of completing her bachelor’s degree when she walks across the stage at Governors State University this June as the first area graduate to complete the Grow Your Own Teachers program.

The Grow Your Own Teachers program is a state initiative that recruits candidates for schools that have trouble retaining qualified staff. Students earn a bachelor’s degree in education and make a five-year teaching commitment in a predominantly low-income district in exchange for tuition forgiveness.

“The Grow Your Own program is a perfect match for Prairie State’s primary mission of serving the community,” said Christopher Fogarty, associate professor/coordinator, education at Prairie State College. “Together, we have an opportunity to enhance the lives of degree-seeking adults and the children they will soon be teaching.”

Kranzer learned about the program while volunteering at Monee Elementary, her children’s school. Since she was already pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she thought the program was a way to make a difference in the community.

“I live and volunteer in the community and believe in my school district,” said Kranzer. “I can continue to give back as a teacher.”

Like Kranzer, Robinson, of Dolton, is on her path to a bachelor’s degree through the Grow Your Own Teachers program. Robinson will complete the program in June 2010. The mother of three children likes how the program allows her to stay involved in her neighborhood schools and have a rewarding career at the same time.

“When I am working as a teacher, I will be able to identify with the children because I am from the community,” said Robinson. “All children have the ability to succeed, and this program will make me the teacher they deserve.”

There are 16 Grow Your Own Teachers programs in the state of Illinois. Prairie State College is part of a consortium of institutions including Governors State University, Action Now,District 201 U Crete-Monee, Harvey SD 152, Dolton SD 148, Patton SD 133, Prairie Hill SD144, and Cook County SD130.

The neighborhood schools work closely with local colleges to screen applicants. The candidates have to show promising ability based on transcripts, an interview, and placement tests in order to qualify for loans and gain entrance into the program. While enrolled at the community college and university, students must meet the same graduation requirements as any other student pursuing a teaching degree.

“Grow Your Own is not a short cut to teacher certification. All candidates will meet or exceed Illinois State Standards,” said Susan Solberg, dean of arts and sciences at Prairie State College. “While enrolled in the program, students also receive mentoring support.”

Even though Kranzer is graduating from the program and looking forward to teaching her own students this fall, she plans to stay involved by being a mentor to other students in the program.

“I received wonderful support from my peers and from the staff at Prairie State and Governors State,” said Kranzer. “I want to give back to the program that has given me so much.”

For more information about the Grow Your Own Teachers program, contact Solberg at (708) 709-3758 or [email protected].