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More than 120 local educators to attend Chancellor's Academy at U. of I.

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor

Released 7/25/2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eighty local teachers, nearly double the number from last year – along with more than 40 school administrators – are expected to take part in the third annual Chancellor’s Academy, which starts Monday (July 30).

The two-week academy, started in 2005, is a concentrated professional development program resulting from a partnership among the Champaign and Urbana public schools and the University of Illinois, with the College of Education acting as the host.

Forty elementary teachers will attend the first week of the program, and 40 middle- and high-school teachers will attend the second week. The administrators, mostly from elementary schools, will attend a two-day workshop Aug. 2-3.

As in the first two years, the emphasis in this year’s academy will be on literacy, according to Julia Johnson Connor, director of the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities, a new unit within the College of Education. The center is now responsible for coordinating the academy in conjunction  with a planning committee that comprises university and school personnel.

In particular, the academy will focus on how to improve literacy through content areas other than language arts or English, Connor said. Among the secondary teachers attending, for instance, will be those teaching business, physical education, music, science and math.

“This partnership is a really a model for how the university and our local communities can make each other stronger,” said Illinois chancellor Richard Herman. “This program blurs the old lines between the world of practice and the world of academia.

“What we are seeing instead is a community of learning developing here,” Herman said. “Our children are getting new opportunities to learn through our teachers and faculty working together to build better teaching models. Our faculty, in turn, are fully engaged with the issues that teachers face every day. We all get better, together.”

The two-weeks of the academy, along with other aspects of the program that run throughout the year, are “very partner-directed,” Connor said, referring to the schools. Many of the themes and daily topics, as well as some of the instructors, were suggested by local educators, she said. Activities planned for the coming school year are based on the needs of the schools and individual teachers. “It’s truly a joint project,” she said.

Speakers and facilitators for the academy will include U. of I., regional and district faculty members, along with several nationally recognized experts by way of video conferencing, Connor said. Both weeks will include significant time for teachers to collaborate and plan in teams organized by school and grade level or content area.

Funding for the program comes from the Illinois campus, which pays for faculty time, books and supplies, and a $500 stipend for each participating teacher.

One addition to the program this year is the recent hiring of two local teachers, Phillip Wilder and Haeny Yoon, to work as teacher collaborators, Connor said. “Both will be very instrumental in carrying forward academic-year activities,” she said, which may include leading workshops, meeting with study groups and individual teachers, and lining up resources.

The plan for those in the position is that they work three years with the Chancellor’s Academy program and then return to the school districts, Connor said.