As many parents are being forcefully reminded during the COVID-19 crisis, teachers are profoundly important to our students’ success. Primary and secondary school teachers wield enormous influence on a student’s life-long relationship with learning, and they are integral to a student’s achievement, both academically and throughout their life. For many of us, the teacher who took the time to really see us, believe in us, or even help us get back on track was responsible for changing our lives.
All students benefit from having teachers that represent the full spectrum of our society, but for students of color, representation in the classroom is particularly important. Yet far too many students of color go to schools with little diversity among the faculty. In Washington’s public schools, only 11% of teachers come from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities compared to almost 40% of their students.
That’s why I’m so excited about a recent $6 million anonymous gift to the University’s College of Education to bolster diversity in the education workforce. This is a transformative investment in BIPOC teachers, and the countless students whose lives they will change.
By expanding recruitment and financial support for BIPOC teacher candidates, as well as providing support for newly credentialed graduates as they begin their careers, this forward-looking gift aims to create a more diverse workforce – and the dividends will be significant. Black, Indigenous and Latinx students are underrepresented in gifted programs and other learning opportunities that lead to students being college-ready by the end of high school. Research shows that exposure to even one teacher who looks like them can improve a student’s success in their K-12 schools.
So much of what we urgently need to accomplish to increase equity in all walks of life begins in the classroom, where teachers are the catalysts for student achievement. Removing obstacles – including financial barriers – to developing a diverse educational workforce will create an impact that will be felt for generations to come.