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Lt. Governor finishes higher-ed tour at NIU for Teacher Appreciation Week

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Illinois lieutenant governor Juliana Stratton met with students and faculty at Northern Illinois University on the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week.

NIU was her final stop on a five-month tour of the state’s public colleges and universities. She says the trip was about hearing from students and trying to address the teacher shortage.

Stratton says that diversifying the teacher pipeline is a crucial part of recruiting new educators.

“Many students I’ve talked to around the state have talked about that they've never had a teacher of color throughout their whole K-12 experience,” she said. “The first one sometimes being when they get to a college campus, if then.”

The lieutenant governor also highlighted education funding in the state budget as well as new state legislation. She mentioned laws allowing education students to substitute teach and lowering the age requirement for paraprofessionals.

“That means that young educators aren't just jump-starting their careers by gaining this classroom experience," said Stratton. "It also means students that they help teach have the support and mentorship to excel.”

Stratton says one of her biggest takeaways from conversations with NIU education students was a focus on restorative justice and mental health. She says it not only helps students but helps schools recruit and retain good teachers.

Stratton also mentioned the increase in MAP grant funding & minority teacher scholarships that could help rural and first-generation students access higher education.