- Associated Press - Saturday, November 3, 2018

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Middle school was an important milestone in Carin Houser’s life.

Now a junior at MacArthur High School, she’s already decided her career, and her own experience was the catalyst. Her ambition led her to the Tomorrow’s Teachers conference at Millikin University on Oct. 15, where high school students considering a teaching career - a field dealing with a shortage across Illinois - are invited learn what it’s like to be an education major.

“I find (middle school) to be the most influential time in a child’s life,” Carin said. “In my experience in middle school as a year-round athlete - I played soccer, basketball, track, if it was in the school, I did it - then I went to high school and I was like, ‘I’m going to do all these sports.’ And everyone was like, if we win, we’ve got to hit it hard and I was just in it for the fun.”

She also tried drama club on a whim and when she got a small part in a production, and she fell in love with theater. Her dream is to be a middle school English teacher, and to combine that with theater in middle school, so kids like her will find their niche earlier than she did, she said. She learned a little bit more about what that will be like.

The Tomorrow’s Teachers conference hosted 83 students from as far away as Chicago and Carbondale, as well as local teens, attended and spent the day in sessions designed to show them a “day in the life” of an education major.

One hour of the day is devoted to students’ particular areas of interest, so students interested in teaching music can spend the hour exploring a class for music education, students who want to teach English as a second language can spend the hour in a bilingual education class, and so on.

“Each content area is focused on something to give our visiting students a taste of what it’s like,” said Christie Magoulias, director of Millikin’s School of Education. “There is not an area that is not in need right now. Every education area is an area of need. Absolutely, they’ll get a job in all areas.”

Illinois has 1,400 unfilled teaching positions, she said, and schools of education are seeing fewer students applying. The shortage is acute, and while science, math and early childhood are particularly in need, teachers are needed in every area. Some of that is due to the increased demands on teachers.

“We keep asking teachers to do more, we keep pushing them to do more and more and we give them fewer resources to do it,” Magoulias said. “The interest isn’t there anymore. These students are going through kindergarten through 12th grade, listening to teachers who may be telling them not to go into the field because it’s not what they thought it would be. The great thing is, we have 83 students here who are from the Chicago suburbs to Carbondale.”

For Dalton Collins, a Meridian graduate, one thing that convinced him to choose teaching was that he grew up surrounded by female teachers and principals, and he said he realized that more men are needed in the field.

“Some of these kids need male role models,” Dalton said. “Somebody’s got to make a bit of a change, one person at a time. It’s good seeing so many guys here (at the conference). A lot of the classes I have are mostly women, too.”

Maggie Comerford, a senior elementary education major at Millikin, said if a person has a passion for teaching, nothing else matters. Comerford also a Meridian graduate, was one of the speakers in a student panel for the high school visitors, answering questions about life at Millikin and daily life as an education major.

“You can’t imagine doing anything else,” Comerford said. “From second grade, it’s ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and it’s always been, a teacher. To be a teacher, you just need to have the heart to be a teacher.”


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2P04loj


Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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