Institutional Partners are the Pillars of Statewide Campaign

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar, Robert R. McCormick Foundation


The #CivicsIsBack summer tour visits Central Illinois this week and next with stops in Macomb (Western Illinois University), Charleston (Eastern Illinois University), and Bloomington-Normal (Illinois State University).

Through our decade-long involvement with the Democracy Schools Initiative, we have made deep inroads in Chicago, its surrounding suburbs, the Metro East region across the Mississippi from St. Louis, and Southern Illinois. Central Illinois is thus virgin territory for the state’s civic learning community, and we’re eager to plant seeds here and let them take root over the next several years.

We’re grateful to have wonderful partners at each of the institutions listed above, beginning with Barry Witten, a curriculum and instruction professor at Western Illinois. Barry has rolled out the red carpet for us in Macomb and recruited an impressive cohort of 32 teachers for our two-day workshop beginning today.

As with Barry, I’ve had the great pleasure of serving on the Illinois Council for the Social Studies Board of Directors with Cindy Rich of Eastern Illinois University. Cindy has long challenged me to adapt our civic learning programming for teachers in rural settings, and this summer we’re finally answering her call and are eager to deliver in Charleston later this week.

Cindy is part of the Teaching with Primary Sources program sponsored by the Library of Congress, and Rick Satchwell of Illinois State University oversees the eleven partners based in Illinois and others in surrounding Midwestern States. Rick is our Bloomington-Normal host and the TPS program not only connects well with the teaching of government institutions component of the new course requirement, but is tailor made for the emerging Illinois Social Science Standards.

It goes without saying that these institutional partners and eight others are pillars of our course implementation plans. They are allowing us to touch every region of the state and ensure that teachers have access to face-to-face professional development opportunities within a one-hour drive. The harvest comes this fall when students throughout Illinois experience proven civic learning practices that facilitate lifelong engagement in our democracy.

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