About GYO Illinois

Grow Your Own Illinois is a 501c3 non-profit that advances the efforts of the GYO
consortia to achieve equity, excellence and diversity in the new teacher pipeline and
the teaching force. 

The Mission of Grow Your Own Illinois is to:

  • Support the education and excellence of GYO teacher candidates and graduates;

  • Advocate for policies that facilitate increasing the number of teachers of color; and

  • Coordinate and align the work of innovative partnerships among universities, community colleges, school districts and community organizers that make up the GYO consortia across the state.

The priorities of GYO Illinois include:

  • Creating a pipeline of highly qualified teachers of color (GYO defines highly qualified as pedagogical and subject matter content mastery and a high degree of cultural competence)

  • Supporting GYO teachers once they are in the classroom

  • Advocating to close the teacher-student diversity gap across Illinois

Impacts as a result of meeting our goals:

  • Improving teacher retention in low-income schools (saving much needed resources and stabilizing the culture of schools)

  • Recruiting excellent teachers for hard-to-staff schools and hard-to-fill positions

  • Improving student achievement in high needs schools

  • Increasing teachers’ cultural competence and community connections


Illinois statute
Grow Your Own Teachers became law in 2004. Beginning in fiscal year 2007, state legislators began making annual appropriations in the state budget to support the program. The GYO statute outlines the parameters of the program detailing eligibility and requirements during and after the program. Since the Illinois state budget impasse of 2015, GYO has not received any funds from the state. While the program continues much as it is outlined in the statute, changes have been made to make it more efficient and effective. 

Grow Your Own Teacher Education Act (110 ILCS 48)

The Southern IL Programs

The Special Education degree program from Southern Illinois University meets state requirements and prepares teachers to instruct students with disabilities ages K-21. The Early Childhood degree program prepares teachers to instruct students from birth through second grade. These degree programs may be completed in two years. In return for financial support provided by the GYO grant, graduates commit to teaching at least five years in a high-needs school or in a high-needs teaching position.


The programs provide valuable active-learning opportunities by integrating courses and field experience that will promote the skills necessary for a successful career. GYO is committed to addressing students' educational interests, developing personal relationships, and providing a supportive learning environment.


GYO Southern IL 2019 Cohort

After Graduation


Teachers will also receive ongoing support from GYO after placement. The GYO program, in partnership with SIU, assists graduates with job placement and continued learning opportunities. GYO provides access to professional development sessions and networking opportunities for its graduates to enhance and deepen their skills as local teachers and outstanding community members.

Ready to Apply?


Contact us to get started, or view our admission requirements.