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Faculty, Teacher Candidates Explore Solutions to Improve Teacher Diversity at Project LEAD Summit

Project Lead
Participants in the inaugural Project LEAD Summit of the Associated Colleges of Illinois

On September 25, AACTE staff had the privilege of taking part in the inaugural Project LEAD (Leaders in Education Advocating for Diversity) Summit in Chicago, Illinois. The summit was a daylong conference conducted by the Associated Colleges of Illinois Center for Success in High-Need Schools to engage teacher candidates and faculty in interactive discussions focused on increasing diversity in the teacher workforce.

A recently released report by the Albert Shanker Institute, The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education, highlights the need to increase teacher diversity as a civil rights imperative. Participation in the Project LEAD Summit is part of AACTE’s ongoing commitment to advancing diversification within the teacher workforce and aligns with similarly focused AACTE initiatives, including

The Project LEAD Summit brought together representative faculty and teacher candidates from ACI’s 23 member universities and colleges. The goals of the summit were to explore issues affecting the demographics of teacher and student pipelines and for each institution to identify an action plan to increase the pool of talented and diverse candidates of color who enter teaching.

Two panels were held during the conference, each of which informed a call to action. The first panel shared statewide and national perspectives to inform a discussion of key issues affecting teacher workforce diversity. The second panel comprised local educators who shared personal stories highlighting successes and challenges they experienced as educators of color.

The educator panelists challenged teacher candidates and faculty to employ strategies that would serve them well in both the near and long term. Cherrelle Negursz, a music teacher, highlighted the usefulness of relationship-building skills, “rock star” classrooms, and 5-year plans. Nichole Farris, an assistant principal, reminded candidates of their value as new teachers who bring cutting-edge strategies to the profession. In concluding remarks, Ernesto Matias of the Chicago Public Schools emphasized the significance of having a community of support and maintaining work-life balance.

Following the panel presentations, teacher candidates and faculty examined key questions and issues raised as a basis for designing action plans to improve recruitment, retention, and candidate support on their own campuses.

By the close of the summit, participants had coalesced into a community of action, eager to inspire change to benefit educators and students throughout the state. Jeanne Goddard, dean of educational programs at Trinity Christian College, said the Project LEAD Summit “sparked fantastic conversation and has all of us thinking more expansively and deliberately about how to recruit and retain diverse students in our teacher education pipeline.”

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Amanda Lester

Director, Programs & Professional Learning, AACTE

Omar Davis

Manager of Member Engagement, AACTE