Natalie Young

Natalie Young prepares teachers ‘everybody wants to have’

Natalie Young

Natalie Young grew up in the underserved Bellwood School District 88.

The Northern Illinois University assistant professor of Early Childhood Education now wants all of her licensure candidates to realize the great need for devoted teachers, especially in buildings with fewer resources. That’s why Young launched the Open Doors program at NIU, giving Huskies firsthand classroom experiences with children from marginalized communities.

It’s just one of the real-world lessons Young offers students on their education journey, fueling their desire to become the best teachers.

“I want all of my students to be that teacher that everybody wants to have,” says Young, who co-chairs her college’s Academic Equity Committee. 

While Young helps prepare her students for whatever they might encounter in their careers, her research is focused on preparing for today’s culturally diverse classrooms.

Some of her students get that exposure through Open Doors, which she hopes allows them to “unlearn any stereotypes and misrepresentations that they might have learned about Black schools and young Black children.”

“My students weren’t getting enough opportunities in schools where they serviced students of color,” she says. “I felt like there was a need there, and you kind of fear what you don’t know.”

For Young, it’s personal.

Raised in Bellwood, she attended Lincoln as a child and returned to teach there after earning her bachelor’s degree from NIU. She later earned master’s and doctoral degrees from NIU before joining the faculty of her alma mater.

She since has become a beloved and valuable mentor to many.

In recent years, Young has received “most valuable professor” and “influential professor” distinctions, as well as an excellence in teaching award and a recognition for exceptional contributions in diversity and social justice.

Former student Veronica DiMaggio, who went on to teach kindergarten, carried many lessons from Young into her classrooms.

“Natalie is going to change the world by teaching teachers how to support their students,” DiMaggio says, “no matter their background.”

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