Tracy Family Foundation Continues Support of GRTC
MACOMB/Moline, IL – With a series of gifts to Western Illinois University’s Great River Teacher Corps (GRTC), the Tracy Family Foundation of Mt. Sterling, IL, is continuing its support of the program which adds quality teachers to the region.
WIU’s GRTC program began in 2018, and celebrated its first graduate in May 2020. The program provides scholarships to students studying teacher education at Western, who will work in west central Illinois schools after graduation.
“The Tracy Family Foundation wants west central Illinois’ schools to inspire life-long learners, leaders and problem-solvers, but we can’t achieve this goal without excellent teachers,” said Dan Teefey, executive director of the Tracy Family Foundation. “The Great River Teacher Corps recruits and trains the next generation of educators that will be vital for academic excellence in our region.”
The Tracy Family Foundation donated $76,000 to the GRTC 2018, and a $60,000 gift was made in February.
Teefey said it is becoming more difficult to attract talented teachers needed for rural schools to thrive, and the GRTC helps students understand the impact they can have on communities by becoming educators.
“Nearly every person can identify at least one teacher that influenced their life,” he added. “Teachers are among the greatest assets our communities have.”
Through the GRTC, WIU students participate in value-added, place-based learning activities that focus on issues faced by rural schools. Students chosen for the GRTC program receive between $8,000-$14,000 in scholarship assistance, which is paid for by donations. In return, WIU’s graduated teachers commit to teaching in a rural or small school in a 22-county area for a minimum of three years after receiving their teaching licenses or certifications.
“I greatly appreciate the ongoing support the Tracy Family Foundation has provided for Western,” said Brad Bainter, executive officer of the WIU Foundation. “Their support could not come at a more critical time as our rural area faces an extreme shortage of teachers. This only assists Western as we strive to strengthen our commitment to west central Illinois, and it supports the very reason Western was founded nearly 125 years ago – to prepare students to be teachers.”
One of the students benefitting from the GRTC program is senior special education major Danielle Harris, of Minooka, IL. As Harris is student teaching this semester in the Elmwood School District, she is using a $500 grant from the program to implement a gardening program with the students she is working with. The grant paid for grow lights, 100 pounds of potting soil and 35 seed varieties, which are being grown hydroponically.
“The best part of being in this program is the opportunities that keep presenting themselves,” said Harris. “I have attended virtual conferences. and have been able to talk with other educators focused on place-based learning around the country. GRTC is a great way to keep educators in rural communities, where place-based learning is essential and easy to implement.”
The GRTC is being managed under the new Arlington & Arlene Seymour Center for Rural Education, Advocacy, Policy and Research in WIU’s College of Education and Human Services (COEHS). The center was established by a gift from Arlington (Arlie) Seymour, ’53, in memory of his late wife, Arlene. Both were lifelong educators with a passion for WIU and for supporting students studying education.
In November 2020, the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved WIU as the only site in the state for a rural education center, and one of only a few in the nation. The center was developed with a mission that includes developing a system to expand the teacher applicant pool for rural school districts in the region.
For more information about the GRTC, visit wiu.edu/grtc.