CARBONDALE (WSIL) --- Since 1937, Educators Rising--- first billed as Future Teachers of America--- has lead efforts to stymie teacher shortages.
Between 2008 to 2018, Illinois lost 3.4% of its teachers according to the Illinois State Board of Education. The same study revealed a 23% drop in teacher prep programs across the nation, from 2008 to 2016.
"I feel like there's a need for more teachers who I guess make kids feel important," said Truth Marsh, a sophomore at Carbondale Community High School (CCHS).
Marsh is one of 13 students participating in the program at CCHS. Seven high schools in Southern Illinois offer the program, including Anna-Jonesboro, Carterville, Cobden, Du Quoin, Johnston City and Vienna.
Rasheeda Love is a teacher at CCHS and sponsors the group. The hall of fame point guard at John A. Logan College now spearheads an effort to grow local teachers and keep them at home.
"That's going to come back to our high schools, our grade schools and be a great product to our community and our schools," Love said.
The students complete 60 hours of direct teaching or career exploration, says Dr. Nancy Mundschenk, the director of teacher education at SIU. She helped jump-start the program last year and hopes to put a dent in the teacher's shortage.
"We have districts throughout Illinois, particularly in more rural districts, that are going without licensed teachers," Mundschenk said. "They're doing everything that they can creatively to try to fill those positions but it continues to get worse."
Sophomore Amira Ruperto is in the program for the first time and is hoping to teach students Spanish someday. "I really started to enjoy it a lot more... My passion just grew for being a teacher.
John A. Logan College (JALC) will begin offering dual credit education courses at CCHS beginning next fall. After completing the program, Mundschenk says students can transfer those credits to JALC or SIU.
Love says students will now have to apply to any open positions in the group and is expecting to have 15 students in the program next year.