The Auburn Gresham neighborhood is one of the south Side's best-kept secrets. It is home to many of Chicago's famous brick bungalows as well as Auburn Park and its "chain of lakes" surrounded by Winneconna Parkway, a hidden gem of green space. It is a vibrant African American community with a population of 49,000 according to the 2010 Census. In Auburn Gresham, most students come from families classified as low to moderate income according to government guidelines.
The Albany Park neighborhood is Chicago's "Gateway to the world, just eight miles northwest of the Downtown Chicago Loop at the end of the CTA Ravenswood Brown Line. Albany Park is one of the city's most ethnically diverse communities. According to the 2010 Census, more than 50 percent of its 55,000 residents were born outside of the United states. The majority of residents hail from Latin America and Mexico, followed by the Philippines, India, Korea, Cambodia, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East. Forty different languages are spoken by students attending local schools, and most students come from families classified as low to moderate income according to government guidelines.
Otherwise known as the “Soybean Capital of the World,” Decatur is located in central Illinois between Springfield and Champaign. Decatur has historically been a manufacturing town with big companies like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Tate & Lyle, and Caterpillar being among the largest employers. However, with many large manufacturers shutting down, Decatur has rebranded itself as an “inland port,” an important transportation hub for goods from all over the world. With a beautiful lake, a charming historic downtown, abundant bike trails, educational museums, amazing parks, and a great zoo, Decatur has become a wonderful place to work and live.
The 20 schools in Decatur Public School District 61 (DPS61), serve approximately 9,000 students of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Thanks to support from the Decatur community through a 1% sales tax increase, both high schools have been renovated to include an adaptable 21st Century Learning Environment. The district has also implemented a one-to-one technology initiative to increase student-centered learning. DPS61 strives to nurture a collaborative atmosphere between students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.
Decatur is fortunate to have been selected as an expansion city for the successful Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline model. Currently, this initiative is working to carefully construct and refine a model of pre-service professional development for urban teachers that demonstrates the value of community-based partnerships to enhance shared educational goals. Key among these partnerships is the Education Coalition of Macon County and the Macon-Piatt Field Based Program with whom the Decatur Teacher Education Pipeline collaborates.
As interest in this new Pipeline grows, program staff will work to recruit new faculty to redesign their courses to meet Decatur's public school and community needs. It is our intention to offer STEP-UP in Decatur in the summer of 2017. And as new graduates accept positions in DPS61, we hope to launch a Mentoring and Induction program that supports teachers' professional careers.
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