116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa City schools are "planting the seed“ in students who might be interested in becoming teachers and promising them a job with the district — if one is available — after graduation from the University of Iowa.
The program, which is launching this spring, aims to support students interested in teaching careers, especially students of color. It’s the next step in the district’s Grow Our Own program, a part of its diversity, equity and inclusion plan.
This past fall, the district launched a two-year fellowship for educators interested in leadership positions in an effort to retain more underrepresented teachers, administrators and staff.
District officials hope a similar program for students will help attract them back to the district, where they could help diversify the teaching staff. About 7 percent of teachers in the Iowa City Community School District are people of color, while 43 percent of the students are young people of color.
Carmen Gwenigale, district leadership fellow with the Grow Our Own program and former Spanish teacher at Liberty High School, said she hopes the program will guide students “to their passion,” whether that’s being a teacher, school counselor or school administrator.
A student who loves cooking, she said, might be interested in being a culinary arts teacher and someday pass along that skill to future generations.
A career interest survey of the district’s high school students showed more than 100 were interested in becoming teachers. Students with that interest began meeting with program leaders this week.
Amira Nash, associate director of partnerships and programs at the University of Iowa College of Education, and Alexei Lalagos, leadership fellow with the Grow Our Own program at Liberty High School, are hoping at least half of those students get invested in the program this spring.
Next year, the program will expand to all high school students. Those who are interested in pursuing a career in education can meet weekly with a teacher sponsor at their school.
If students decide teaching isn’t for them, they still gain skills that can help them in whatever career they choose, Gwenigale said.
Many students — especially first-generation college students — aren’t sure how to pursue higher education, Gwenigale said.
“If you’ve never had someone in your family go through the process of applying to college, it can seem really overwhelming,” said Nash, who will work with the students once they are at the University of Iowa.
The students will be helped with their college application and given advice on financial aid and grant opportunities. Once on campus, they’ll be informed about resources that provide academic help and mental health support.
The district is working with Educators Rising, a curriculum for students to learn about the profession and explore career opportunities, develop skills they need and make informed decisions about pathways to becoming a teacher.
Students will be encouraged to enroll in Kirkwood Community College’s Education Academy to earn free college credit while they’re in high school and to explore their career interest.
Upon graduating from the UI, students are guaranteed a position in the Iowa City Community School District if there is an opening.
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