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Hundreds of aspiring educators flock to NIU 'Future Teacher Conference' as schools try to ease teacher shortage

Enrollment has been shrinking in teacher prep programs across the country, making a difficult teacher shortage even worse.

That’s why Northern Illinois University and Waubonsee Community College held their Future Teacher Conference at NIU.

Somonauk High School senior T.J. Adelman was one of hundreds of northern Illinois high schoolers who made the trek out.

He wants to be a Kindergarten teacher, and has spent this year helping teach in the same classroom he once learned in. He’s seen that teaching can be overwhelming.

“You have to have an amount of patience, and amount of character. And you got to have that balance," he said. "For some reason, it's hard to get people to do that."

Right now, he’s not sure if he wants to go right into a four-year school or transfer from a community college. Either way, he says the conference helped him home in on what credentials and certificates he’s going to need to be a teacher.


West Aurora High School senior LaDonna Dawkins spent this year helping in a first grade class -- even making her own lesson plans.

So, when she observed a middle school science activity during a breakout session, her first thought was: how can I use this with my elementary kids?

“I'm gonna go home, I'm gonna attempt to recreate it,” she said. “I'm gonna put my own spin on it, maybe throw some glitter in there so it explodes, who knows?”

The Northern Illinois University event was another reminder that teaching is what she wants to pursue. That’s a moment that conference organizers want to create for more students.

Teacher prep programs hope conferences like this help recruit other students as they try to ease the teacher shortage and increase diversity.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.