The Illinois Federation of Teachers recognizes the quality union-sponsored professional development is critical to helping you be more effective in your job and as a union leader That's why the IFT offers a wide variety of professional development programs. Courses are taught by union members and staff who have been specially trained to meet your professional development and union training needs.

Professional development and training


Union leadership institute (ULI)


Submit completed registration by October 23, 2020.  

All 2020-21 ULI courses are scheduled to be held remotely. Class hours and start times will vary.
Participants must attend all three-weekend sessions to complete these courses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the important role that Unions  play in protecting the health, safety, and livelihoods of members. Strong, responsive local leadership is more important than ever.  

IFT’s ULI program has been designed to meet the needs of both new and experienced local leaders and activists in all IFT constituency groups. ULI provides participants with hands-on learning of union skills, professional development opportunities, and a chance to network with other IFT members from throughout the state. We have adapted our training to meet the changing needs of union leadership as we grapple with COVID-19 and racial injustice.

2020-21 ULI courses


Designed for newly elected leaders, prospective leaders or for veteran leaders who want to recharge their skills, this newly revamped course will help participants develop and enhance their leadership skills to ensure the success of their locals/councils in today’s challenging education, economic and political climate.

Participants will:

  • Build skills and clarify roles of local officers and activists;

  • Learn skills to work with different learning and leadership styles in order to build an effective team;

  • Compile a leadership toolbox of valuable skills and resources;

  • Enhance the essential skills to empower and motivate others to be active in the union; and,

  • Have fun in the leadership role!


This interactive course will help participants master the grievance process with group practice and simulated role play.

This course will help participants develop critical skills designed to:
• Separate gripes from grievances;

• Develop grievance investigation and research skills;

• Take problem-solving approaches to settlement;

• Write, prepare and present grievances.


This training provides those with little or no bargaining experience with an understanding of how and why negotiations work and prepares participants to actively engage in the bargaining process.

Participants will:
• Review collective bargaining laws;

• Learn the different stages in a negotiation;

• Prepare and write negotiation proposals;

• Learn what makes the negotiation team work well together; and,

• Learn how the mediation process works.


DECEMBER 2020 12/3: 4-6pm | 12/12: 8am-4:30pm | 12/13: 8am-4:30pm JANUARY 2021
1/7: 4-6pm | 1/16: 8am-4:30pm | 1/17: 8am-4:30pm JUNE 2021 6/3: 4-6pm | 6/14: 8am-4:30pm | 6/15: 8am-4:30pm IFT is offering this course as part of our Union Leadership Institute program to support unions as they implement a locally bargained appeals process. Participants who successfully complete this course are designated in ELIS as qualified evaluators of teachers.Participants must complete and submit pre-work, complete alldates of their chosentrainingsessionand successfully complete an assessment in order to qualify as an evaluator. This training qualifies for Professional Development credit or Administrator Academy credit. Evidence willbe provided for teacher evaluator credential. The $150.00 registration fee includes all course materialsand assessment.

REGISTER HERE Registration forms MUST be received 15 days prior to the training session. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Space is limited to 25 participants.


(Leadership Education and Development)

The IFT, in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Cornell University, offers the LEAD program to help local union and council teams establish strong relationships with their members and the community. Throughout the year-long program, LEAD teams hold several collaborative meetings to assess their challenges, determine how to strategically overcome them, and develop an effective action plan.

Professional Issues Training and Support
IFT members are experts in their fields and uniquely qualified to train their colleagues. After completing an IFT Train-the-Trainer course, members are armed with the skills and materials they need to conduct professional development programs in their locals.

IFT members have instructed many programs in their own locals and councils, including:  
Initial Teachers Evaluation Training

Evaluation Empowerment

Building Responsive and Trauma-Informed Schools

Worksite Leader (WSL) Training
The WSL program is designed to help union activists be effective worksite leaders in their building or workplace. By informing and engaging members, WSLs play a critical role in growing and strengthening their locals and the IFT.

To become a WSL graduate participants must complete five courses, including:
Union 101
 Communications and Information
Worksite Advocacy
Mobilization and Engagement
Political, Legislative, and Community Engagement


Lee Ann Gemmingen

Southwestern Illinois Federation of Teachers, Local 6600

The LEAD training we received helped us to plan, strategize, and implement our ideas to move forward with our vision of building partnerships to educate, empower, and evolve.

George rosa

Elgin Community College Faculty Association, Local 3791

Understanding our contracts and how to defend them is more critical than ever. There is no better place to learn that than from experienced union staff and activists.

terri berg

Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Local 6099

Worksite Leader training helped me see
how important it is to establish one-on-one
connections with coworkers. I have so many new ideas now and plan to pursue a leadership position in my local.


Additional trainings and assistance are available based on local need and demand. Examples of custom programs include: campaign and candidate training, social media, current legislative issues, and the teacher evaluation process.

questions? Contact Benita Twillie at btwillie@ift-aft.org or 630/468-4080.

Being a union member is the most effective way to advocate for yourself, your profession, and those you serve.

Now more than ever, it's important that your elected officials hear from you. Office visits and phone calls are the most effective way to have your voice heard.

Empower yourself. Check your voter registration status, register, find IFT-endorsed candidates, and other useful voter tools and resources.

Explore our centralized hub of current issue campaigns and find grassroots volunteer opportunities to take action on your own time.


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P.O. Box 390

Westmont, IL 60559

© 2020 Illinois Federation of Teachers.

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