UIC gets grant to address early childhood teacher shortage

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CHICAGO — The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $2.8 million donation to help address a shortage of early childhood education teachers in the Chicago area.

The grant is from Marjorie Pelino, who said she was looking for ways to give when she was approached by UIC senior lecturer Catherine Main, who coordinates the UIC early childhood preparation programs. Pelino said she leans toward supporting early childhood because she believes “everything begins there.”

The gift to the College of Education will fund a faculty project to create a pipeline of early childhood teachers for four years, the university said. The project also will provide opportunities for current early childhood teachers to earn advanced degrees and credentials.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the number of new teachers seeking licenses in early childhood education dropped by 56% over a 10-year period ending in 2017. In Chicago, officials anticipate needing an additional 1,500 early education teachers over the next three years.

Pelino is a mother and grandmother who along with her three daughters founded the Pelino Foundation in 1996, which focuses on providing opportunities to low-income families and children.

Pelino said offering ways for children to be lifelong learners has a major impact on their lives, especially if they are from families that are struggling.

“I just feel like reaching these children at an earlier age would make a big difference,” Pelino said.

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