“I know what I want to be when I grow up!”



Students involved in Grow Your Own Teacher from Neuqua travel to Metea to observe high school teachers.

Aarti Gupta, Editor-in-Chief

This piece was also published in The Echo Magazine 24.1.

Picture this:

It’s 12:04a.m., and your parents are asleep. You hear your dad snoring lightly as you walk through the hallway to grab your AirPods, and you want to groan at the sound of his blissful sleeping during your miserable suffering.

You begrudgingly venture back to your room and slouch down into your desk, pushing away your math homework and opening a new tab on your computer to get some more work done. It’s only a Tuesday night, and you’ve got three more days left before you can finally pretend to unwind—simply pretend because you know you’re going to be back at your desk working hard once again over the weekend.

Your back aches at the thought, and you can’t tell whether it’s from the heavy backpack you carry around, your poor posture at your desk or the weight of the stress of getting into college. I mean, you literally haven’t done anything.

Your teacher has been asking for your letter of recommendation form since the beginning of September, and you still can’t figure out what to put. You’re only seventeen; you don’t know anything about yourself. You don’t know three traits that best describe you, much less what you would say if you were writing your own letter. You’re even lying in your aspirations question: “What major do you intend to pursue in college? Why are you considering this major?”

You’re “intending” to pursue a degree in accounting, but you weren’t even “considering” that major until two weeks ago when you heard about the average annual salary. Obviously you can’t put that, so you freak out even more and slam your laptop shut.

How are you supposed to know about your future when you’re only seventeen?

The month of October is scary for students everywhere, and it’s not because of Halloween. Maybe you’re a freshman concerned with the clubs you’re joining; maybe you’re a sophomore with slipping grades. If you’re a junior, you’re probably thinking about studying for your SAT and ACT, and if you’re a senior, the early application deadline for most schools, Nov. 1, is likely haunting you.

All of your concerns boil down to one common stressor: your future. And everyone you know is asking you the same question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

Indian Prairie School District 204 (IPSD 204) might just have the answer for you.

In an initiative to encourage students to consider a future career in education, District 204 has created a program, known as Grow Your Own Teachers (GYOT), that allows current high school students to have observational and hands-on teaching experiences at the high school, middle school and elementary school level.

One classroom observation will take place each quarter, and participating students will be provided with a working district ID that allows them to work like a representative of the building. Students who are not necessarily interested in teaching can also observe other staff members such as school psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors and speech pathologists on observation days. The district is looking to hire future graduates to work at the district after they finish college by showing students what working for them would be like.

At the end of the current school year, students will also have the option to set up classrooms with teachers and intern at schools. Moreover, to ensure success of students involved in the program in their future pursuits, participants have been provided college application assistance. Students are additionally encouraged to take the Introduction to Education and Education II courses offered at Neuqua Valley, alongside the Early Childhood class. Educators Rising is also a club that has partnered with Aurora University to provide members with additional internships, observations, volunteering opportunities and lessons about teaching and classroom management.

Students are not required to be part of education-related classes or clubs to participate in the program. However, in order to pursue a career in teaching, students are required to attain a bachelor’s degree in education, after which they are guaranteed an interview with IPSD 204.

Because Grow Your Own Teachers is fairly new to the district, administration is looking to offer more opportunities to students in the future. Students interested in the program have been encouraged to reach out to Todd Mertz ([email protected]), Neuqua Valley’s building coordinator for the GYOT program. The district hopes that being part of the program will either introduce you to a new interest or help you narrow down your future prospects.