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Radio Show Features Holmes Program, Other Efforts to Increase Teacher Diversity

Janelle Alexander
Dana Dunwoody
Ahmed Fahad

Tim Finklea
Jarren Jeffery
Monika Shealey

The latest monthly episode of Education Talk Radio spotlighted the AACTE Holmes Program and other efforts to increase the diversity of the U.S. teaching workforce. In the June 14 show, host Larry Jacobs was joined by Dean Monika Shealey of Rowan University (NJ), Student Services Director Jarren Jeffery of Mount Vernon High School (Fairfax County, VA), current Holmes Scholars Janelle Alexander (Rowan University) and Dana Dunwoody (Boston University, MA), recent Holmes alumnus Ahmed Fahad (University of Cincinnati, OH), and AACTE’s Tim Finklea.

Schools across the country have more diverse student populations than ever, yet the teaching workforce is still predominantly White and female. The AACTE Holmes Program, which for decades has supported students from historically underrepresented backgrounds pursuing doctorates in education, was expanded 3 years ago to include master’s, undergraduate, and even high school students in an effort to provide deeper support in the pipeline of future educators.

During the radio show, Shealey emphasized the importance of teaching all future educators cultural responsiveness, because it helps foster better connections with students across the board. In an effort to combat the lack of teacher diversity specifically, though, her institution also participates in the AACTE Holmes Program and recently developed its own IMPACT program to help prepare more men of color for teaching in local schools. Shealey clarified that by “men of color” she means not only African Americans, but men from all over the world with various races and ethnicities. Rowan is also working to enact more community engagement and professional development through its Center for Access, Success, and Equity program.

The Holmes Scholars reflected on their experiences in the program and why they are valuable. “When it comes to African American males, you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Alexander. She said during her own education, she saw only three teachers of color in her school, and none of them were hers – making it feel difficult to connect personally with teachers. Fahad, who just completed his doctorate, said the mentoring and other support he received as a Holmes Scholar helped him finish his education.

Jeffery reiterated the negative psychological effect on students of having no teachers who look like them. Teachers need to think about how they are connecting with their students from different backgrounds, she said. A lack of connection ultimately translates to a lack of student engagement, which leads to less interest in learning from the student. At her high school, she has a large population of Spanish-speaking students who are learning English as a second language, and she sees the challenges that arise when teachers do not speak the students’ language or find other ways to connect with them.

Listen to the whole radio broadcast here, and tune in for AACTE’s next segment on Education Talk Radio, August 9 at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

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Shawn Karim

AACTE, Intern