Northeastern Illinois University has welcomed five high school students this fall as part of a dual-enrollment program with Ridgewood High School (RHS) in Norridge, Ill. All five students are interested in becoming educators and are enrolled in the Daniel L. Goodwin College of Education for one class. If the students pass, they will earn both high school and college credit.
“The RHS students are extremely excited to be at the NEIU campus sitting in courses with our college-level students,” Daniel L. Goodwin College of Education Dean Sandra Beyda-Lorie said. “We know they will benefit from the opportunity to grapple with issues of equity, inclusion and social justice that all future and current teachers face. In addition, the RHS teachers provide academic and wrap-around support to the students at the high school to ensure they are successful in achieving the learning outcomes of the college-level courses in which they are enrolled on campus.”
Dolores Pigoni-Miller, Toni Pemberton and Katie Davis co-teach Ridgewood’s Career Pathways and Education Program, a state-recognized course that gives students an endorsement in a select field—such as education, agriculture and health—during their senior year of high school if all the mandated requirements are met. In partnering with Northeastern, students receive dual-enrollment credit (both high school and college credit) as well as observation hours that can be applied to their teacher education program, should they continue to become certified educators.
“The benefits of this program are great,” Pigoni-Miller said. “Students get a chance while they’re still in high school to understand if they want to become a teacher or not and, if they are, they can narrow their focus so by the end of the program they know if they want to be early childhood education teachers, high school teachers, or college professors. It gives them a leg up on their careers.”
Ridgewood is so supportive of their students that the high school is paying for the students’ tuition and books at Northeastern, eliminating the financial burden of the courses for interested students.
Ridgewood allows these select students to take their high school classes during the morning periods, then attend class at Northeastern in the afternoons two days a week. The other three days, students use their afternoon periods to complete observation hours, complete coursework, or meet with Pigoni-Miller, Pemberton or Davis if they need help with assignments. This scheduling allows students to still participate in clubs, sports and other high school activities.
“We hope to reach all the students who are interested in teaching,” Pigoni-Miller said. “We hope to educate our students, especially our minority students about what a career in education looks like. Our hope is that our students who are interested in teaching get the endorsement, know what level they want to teach, what discipline they want to teach, and understand all the different roles that need to be filled in a school. We want to find every student who has even the smallest inkling to become a teacher and give them the opportunity to really discover if they want to be a teacher or not.”
Jeremy Babcock, coordinator and instructor of the College of Arts and Sciences Education Program (CASEP), has been involved with this partnership from the beginning and thinks opportunities like this dual-enrollment program not only greatly benefit the high school participants, but also Northeastern students and the University as a whole.
“The more we connect with schools in the community, the more students will see NEIU as a viable option for a high-quality education, especially for future teachers,” Babcock said. “My goal is for students to see NEIU as a vibrant place to learn, and I'm especially interested in providing my CASEP students with a myriad of opportunities so that by the time they become ready to teach, they are highly sought-after candidates due to the experiences they have had at NEIU. The Ridgewood High School partnership is one of those experiences that provides a mentoring component for my students, and a rich university, teacher prep experience for the incoming high school students.”
Ridgewood had interest from other universities that wanted to partner on this initiative but chose Northeastern because the school felt it would be the best opportunity for its students and found Northeastern’s staff to be so supportive and welcoming. It is a partnership both Ridgewood and Northeastern hope will continue and become more prominent in the future.
“Since these students are already engaging in early teacher-in-training experiences at the high school—lesson planning, assessing and instructing children—they will have the opportunity to waive many of their early clinical experience hours once enrolled in our teacher preparation program,” Beyda-Lorie said. “In turn, we will benefit from teacher candidates who can hit the ground running. I could not be more delighted in this initiative and look forward to seeing how we can continue to support and grow it.”
Top photo: Daniel L. Goodwin College of Education Dean Sandra Beyda-Lorie (right) and Instructor Bill Kondellas (left) pose with Ridgewood students Yilyanny Barreto-Rodriguez, David Berry, Julie Clark, Ivy Huynh and Abriela Karemanaj.