The importance of teacher diversity hits home for me as a former teacher in an urban school district. That is why I am currently a doctoral candidate studying education at Johns Hopkins University. It’s also one of the reasons I applied for an internship at the U.S. Department of Education.
I taught in a public college prep magnet high school in the District of Columbia for six years. I saw how few role models and mentors of color my students were able to find at school – and I was concerned about the impact that might have on their learning. I also wondered how our young people would gain the confidence and commitment they’d need to become leaders in their communities, when many of their school leaders did not reflect these students’ own experiences and backgrounds.
The administrators at my school were committed to having a diverse faculty, but there were many challenges. There was a small applicant pool of experienced, qualified teachers of color. Additionally, I observed that it was difficult to attract and retain educators of color in my high-needs district.
As I’ve done my doctoral research I’ve come to realize that my experience wasn’t unique. Nationwide, there’s a lack of minority teachers in the workforce, and the problem is particularly acute in urban school districts. I’ve come to realize that significant steps need to be taken to address this issue. Right now, it’s an unfortunate cycle: many promising students of color may not even consider teaching as a viable career choice because they haven’t seen many teachers that look like them.
As my research continues, I plan to focus on finding new ways to address this crisis. Here at the Department of Education, it is an issue that continues to garner the attention of senior leaders.
During a recent installment of “Ask Arne,” Secretary Duncan; David Johns, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans; and Joiselle Cunningham, 2013 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, discussed the importance of teacher diversity.
One of America’s greatest strengths is its diversity. We need to do a better job of making sure our teacher workforce embodies those strengths and values.
Kristen Moore is an intern in the Office of the Secretary.