NIU’s Educators Rising chapter hoping to engage, mentor high school groups

Abigail Weaver (standing) and Peytonn Weaver represent Educators Rising during the NIU Involvement Fair in August 2020.
Abigail Weaver (standing) and Peytonn Weaver represent Educators Rising during the NIU Involvement Fair in August 2020.

Members of the NIU College of Education’s still-young chapter of Educators Rising are devoted to furthering their preparation, enhancing their marketability – and, they hope, making meaningful connections with those students who will follow in their footsteps.

When we began Educators Rising, one of the biggest things that our members wanted was to become mentors for future NIU Huskies and future educators. That is really one of their passions,” says Jenny Johnson, the college’s director of Teacher Preparation and Development and acting director of Student Services.

“Our students talk about wanting to go back to their high schools,” Johnson adds. “They’ve said to me, ‘I wish I would have known then what I know now – and I’d love to tell someone that.’ ”

NIU’s students are eager to collaborate with high school chapters on their projects, or by serving as mentors when the teens enter Educators Rising competitions.

They also are excited to show their younger counterparts what awaits them in college, whether it’s in DeKalb or elsewhere: “What they’re loving about what they’re doing now can be extended,” Johnson says, “into a space where they automatically belong.”

Educators Rising is an initiative of PDK International dedicated to “cultivating a new generation of highly skilled educators by guiding young people on a path from high school through college and into their teaching careers.”

Jennifer Johnson
Jennifer Johnson

“By working with aspiring educators who reflect the demographics of their communities and who are passionate about serving those communities through public education,” the national organization’s mission statement continues, “Educators Rising is changing the face of teaching.”

Less than a year since its local launch at NIU in November 2019, the student-led Huskie chapter is up nearly five dozen participants from a variety of programs and even from other NIU colleges and majors that include nursing and business.

Opportunities for professional development allow students to grow in their chosen professions, regardless of what those are.

Members also can earn micro-credentials to showcase their growing skills, to complete anti-bias training, to compete for scholarships, to run for seats on the executive board and, during normal times, to travel to annual conferences.

For Michelle Tofte, a senior Elementary Education major in the NIU Department of Curriculum and Instruction, the goal to become the best teacher possible reflects her firm belief that “if you want to see change, be change.”

“I think Educators Rising – getting us into the professional development, getting us into the speaking, getting us into the national conference – gets our voices out there as educators,” she adds, “people with experience in the classroom who know what’s working, what’s not working and what we need to change, not just with our students, schools or communities but nationwide.”

Seeing the passion of future educators such as Tofte drives Johnson to help them in their mission to engage with high school students.

“We were one of the first collegiate chapters, and we would really love to let high school students know that we are here to support them,” Johnson says. “We’d love for them to become future Huskies, of course, but even if they don’t, we still want to mentor them, and say, ‘Here’s what you have to look forward to,’ and, ‘Here’s how we can give back.’ We love what we’re doing here.”

Ready to connect your high school’s chapter of Educators Rising with NIU’s? Email

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