May 01, 2017

New grant-funded program creates opportunities for teachers

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Opportunity knocked. Southern Illinois University Carbondale opened the door and is inviting the community along as well. 

A $752,664 grant from the No Child Left Behind fund administered by the Illinois Board of Higher Education K-12 Teacher Enhancement Project will help SIU create more options for elementary, middle and high school teachers, both in the area and from elsewhere in Illinois. 

The grant has two parts, one to provide more qualification opportunities for teachers to become dual credit-qualified, and one addressing the need for more bilingual and ESL (English as a Second Language) instructors. In addition, the grant also provides tuition and fees assistance for the school teachers interested in obtaining these credentials. 

Dual credit refers to courses high school students may take that provide both high school credit and college credit. Dual credit courses generally represent college freshman or sophomore level courses that fulfill core curriculum, or general education, requirements.

Many students turn to a community college for dual credit courses. Now, though, high school teachers in the area will be able to come to SIU and take the graduate courses that lead to dual credit teaching certification. Then they can offer these courses to students ready for dual credit, giving students the option of taking dual-credit classes in their high schools. 

SIU is offering courses that will qualify school teachers in dual credit math, geology, psychology, history and agribusiness economics courses. This array of courses may lead to more course offerings in the high schools. For example, a dual credit history course SIU offers is for a two-semester high school course in “History of World Civilizations,” a choice not necessarily available in area high schools at all. 

The ESL-Bilingual Endorsement courses are for teachers who teach in bilingual programs or who teach students who are learning English. Accordingly, the program offers two kinds of endorsement certifications: ESL (English as a Second Language) and bilingual. The linguistics department already has experience offering these endorsements. 

The IBHE-supported program begins this summer. During the academic year especially, courses will be offered in the evening to accommodate high school teachers’ schedules. The math program has an online component for those who can’t easily make it to campus, and other programs may offer online courses in the future. 

Meera Komarraju, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Matthew Keefer, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, spearheaded the drive to obtain the grant. When they learned money was available for this program, but only for a limited time, they assembled a team quickly and put together a proposal on a very short deadline. 

“After the grant providers saw our initial proposal, they said, ‘There is more money available for this.’ So we asked for all of it available for our region. We didn’t really expect to win the whole award – but we did,” Komarraju said. 

“It makes me feel very hopeful,” she said. “SIU is an important resource for the region. Before we were a university, we were a teaching college, and this speaks directly to that first mission.” 

“Dual credit in particular is the trend these days, and it’s something the IBHE wants to promote. It’s beneficial to us to be involved in this and to bring teachers who want this qualification to our campus,” Keefer said. “The grant also gives us the ability to develop online courses, so we’ll be doing that as well.” 

Registration for program enrollment is currently open for intersession and summer classes. Intercession enrollment closes May 8 with classes to begin May 15; summer class enrollment ends on June 5 with classes beginning June 12. Go here for more information, or email