PLEDGE Initiative

The NIU College of Education actively cultivates an equity-focused learning community that embraces diverse people, ideas and points of view. We are resolute in proactively meeting the changing educational and professional needs of students while advancing teaching, learning, research, practice and advocacy in our program.

Our PLEDGE (partnering to lead and empower district-grown educators) initiative takes our licensure programs to where the potential students are – and where they are needed.

Through this residency model, we are creating new teachers and administrators among people whose life circumstances of work and family might have prevented them from earning degrees away from home.

We currently partner with districts to:

  • Prepare principals for future leadership positions.
  • Prepare elementary education teachers with ESL/Bilingual endorsements.
  • Prepare early childhood teachers.
  • Upskill paraprofessionals to special education teachers.
  • Identify funding opportunities to pay for PLEDGE cohorts.
  • Identify partnership opportunities to combine with other local districts to cost-share and fill a PLEDGE cohort.


Our PLEDGE initiative has grown to include a new LEAP (licensed educator accelerated program) cohort format that incorporates a prior learning assessment so working educators can receive credit for past work experiences.

  • Upskill paraprofessionals and other school employees with associate degrees to become licensed Special Education teachers.
  • Courses are taught in your district in short, eight-week hybrid class formats.
  • Participating educators will complete all field experiences and student teaching in your district, allowing them to stay employed while participating in our cohort program.

PLEDGE Principal Residency Program

Our cohort-based Principal Residency Program prepares and promotes current members of your team who know and understand the local culture – and who want to stay and grow in it.

  • Candidates gain two years of experience in full-time leadership positions within their own districts.
  • Candidates receive strong mentoring in their local buildings, two years of dedicated coaching from the Illinois Principals Association and internship supervision from NIU faculty.
  • NIU faculty collaborate on initial selection of candidates; on integrating course content with field experiences; on candidate assessment and placement into professional roles; and on assessing the impact of the program on school performance.
  • Districts can invest in their communities and commit to the professional development of high performers. Administrators meet regularly with NIU faculty to review program and candidate progress.

PLEDGE RISE: NIU – RPS 205 – Grow Your Own Partnership

Our PLEDGE RISE (Rockford Inspiring School and Community Excellence) professional educator licensure program is designed for Rockford community members who are interested in earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from NIU. Through a partnership with RPS 205 and Grow Your Own Illinois, this program includes the full cost of tuition, credit for past work experience, advising and completion coaches. In return, participants commit to teach in RPS 205 for five years upon completion of the program. Custom elective courses focused on the Rockford community are incorporated into the curriculum. If you are interested in learning more please contact Jennifer Johnson at or Vicci Gartner at

PLEDGE Program Impact

203 new local educators:
  • 17 early childhood teachers
  • 92 elementary education teachers
  • 44 principals
  • 50 special education teachers


Contact Us

Dean's Office
General Information
Graham Hall 321
Jason Klein
Senior Director
Learning Partnerships
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