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How Peoria Public Schools is growing its next generation of teachers

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Tim Shelley / WCBU
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Zetyia Bishop, left; and Nikita Arreguin Quintero, will become Peoria Public Schools' newest teachers upon graduating from Bradley University this December. Both were part of the Grow Your Own Teacher Initiative, a Peoria Public Schools/Peoria Federation of Teachers program aimed at helping nontraditional and first-generation students proceed through their higher education.
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Peoria Public Schools has adopted a multifaceted approach to grappling with teaching shortages. One tactic invests in budding teachers who are more likely to stay with the district long-term.

Trewyn teacher Linda Wilson is the coordinator of the Peoria Grow Your Own Initiative, which seeks to guide nontraditional teaching candidates on the path to a career.

"It's important because we are actually growing folks who are in our community. They are going to stay," Wilson said. "Recruiting is also essential, but retaining them is important, also."

Zetyia Bishop is one example. A Manual graduate, she was joined by her mother and grandmother as she signed a letter of commitment to work at Peoria Public Schools on Monday.

"A couple years after I started college, I decided to change paths. And it's one of the best things I ever decided to do because I'm doing what my calling is to do, so I'm just excited to get started," she said.

The Grow Your Own program provides social, academic, and financial supports to prospective teachers working their way through school. It's a partnership between the school district and the Peoria Federation of Teachers Local 780.

Bishop is currently majoring in secondary education and history at Bradley University. She will become a Peoria Public Schools teacher upon graduation this December.

Nikita Arreguin Quintero has been in the GYO program for three years. She is majoring in early childhood education. She said the support and encouragement helped her get through her education.

"I knew it was going to be a long journey, so having somebody to talk to about it was amazing," she said.

The district also hired internationally this year to fill some teaching positions. Instructional coaches were also reassigned to classroom teaching roles.