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KEES Nonprofit Executive Search Client Partner, Grow Your Own Illinois, taps Richard Nettles as the next Chicago/Lake County Program Director

Grow Your Own Illinois taps Richard Nettles as the next Chicago/Lake County Program Director

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Grow Your Own Illinois (GYO-IL), an organization that develops a strong pipeline of teachers of color rooted in their school communities, has announced Richard Nettles as the new Chicago/Lake County Program Director. Effective January 22, 2024, Nettles will lead the Chicago/Lake County program, the largest and oldest of the four consortia in Illinois. KEES was appointed to lead the executive search last fall.

Nettles comes to GYO-IL having served as the Manager of Field Experience and Curriculum at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), where he defined strategies for all pre-service teacher training and managed the teacher pathways training team. Prior to CPS, Nettles held teacher candidate support roles at Northeastern Illinois University and Roosevelt University. He began his career in education as an African American History teacher at CPS’s Urban Prep Academy High School.

“We were seeking someone with a strong commitment to social justice and community investment, as well as deep knowledge of teacher licensure processes to manage GYO-IL’s Chicago and Lake County consortium,” said Dr. Liza Pappas, Executive Director of GYO-IL. “Richard’s experience in teacher education and his alignment with GYO-IL’s mission made him stand out. Undoubtedly, he will play a significant role with our team. An additional thank you to KEES for their professional focus throughout this process.”

“I am beyond excited to join the extraordinary team at Grow Your Own Illinois! As a Waukegan native and a resident of Chicago’s South Side, this work is very close to my heart. GYO-IL represents an opportunity to turn the tide of education exponentially,” noted Richard. “Beyond bridging the gap between what is and what could be, as the new Chicago/Lake County Program Director, I look forward to ensuring Black and Brown people have GYO-IL’s full support on their path to teacher licensure and that our communities are recognized for our assets, character, and contributions to this world.”

Nettles holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree (MAT) in Urban Education from the University of Chicago. Along with his Illinois Professional Educators License, he has earned endorsements in Elementary Education (K-9) and Secondary Education (9-12).

Grow Your Own Teachers (GYO-IL)

Grow Your Own Illinois’ (GYO-IL) mission is to support racially diverse and community-connected individuals to become certified teachers in hard-to-staff schools and positions to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes for its students. GYO-IL believes that Illinois students, their schools and neighborhoods, and the teacher candidates are all enriched by this process. For more information, visit


KEES (formerly Alford Executive Search) is a nonprofit executive search firm that builds diverse teams with dynamic leaders in the nonprofit and public sectors. A woman owned and operated firm, KEES offers a full array of nonprofit consulting services including executive search, leadership development, interim staffing, and HR support. For more information, please visit

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