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Action, Mentoring, Dialogue Keys to Advancing Diversity in Education Programs

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Facilitators Candace Burns, William Paterson University, and Dana Dunwoody, Boston University, address Holmes students (seated, L-R) Yanfang Wang, SUNY Oswego; Aylie Moya, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; and Alex Caston, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; standing (L-R) are NIC leaders Ernest Black, California State University, Fullerton, team; Nanette Missaghi, University of St. Thomas team; and Michael Dennehy, Boston University team

During the 2018 AACTE Annual Meeting, a Deeper Dive session pursued insights into effective strategies for improving the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. In this interactive session, “Promising Practice and Lessons Learned: Pathways for Recruiting, Retaining, and Supporting a Diverse Educator Workforce,” discussants included members of the AACTE Holmes Program joined by representatives from the AACTE Black & Hispanic/Latino Male Teachers Initiative Networked Improvement Community (NIC).

I was honored to co-facilitate the session with Candace Burns (William Paterson University, NJ), on such an important topic. The speakers and audience members alike raised provocative points about supporting candidates from historically underrepresented populations, while also bringing to light the experiences of several students who are currently moving through the pipeline.

Ernest Black, regional director of the Southern California CalStateTEACH program at California State University, Los Angeles, reflected on his personal understanding of the value of diversifying the teaching workforce. “I was an African American male teacher who was changing careers who just wanted to make a difference,” he said, adding that students “have the right to see themselves and/or their culture reflected in their classroom and their teacher.” He said targeted recruitment and retention programs are important to help “the students who need it most to see themselves in their teacher [and] the teachers remember why they embarked on this journey in the first place.”

Holmes Honors Student Alex Caston, an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, spoke to his empowering experiences in the Holmes Program. He said the professional development, mentorship, and continuing education he is receiving mean the pipeline leads not only to the diversification of classroom educators but into the far reaches of a terminal degree. “My path is clear, and it is not a matter of if I will obtain my master’s or Ph.D. but a matter of when,” he said. “I don’t want my name to be only on a classroom door. I want it to be amongst the reference page in research.”

The NIC and the Holmes Program apply different strategies to reach similar goals. Both programs have emphasized the outcome goals of increased diversification and equity within and across the various sectors of education. The processes used to pursue this goal were a center point of the session’s dialogue.

Nanette Missaghi, director of equity and inclusion at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MN), emphasized the importance of “creating mentoring programs that are culturally relevant and the recognition across the universities of the need to hire staff and faculty of color that are representative of our student candidates.” Her vision of mentorship is inclusive of continuing education of faculty and staff with culturally responsive pedagogies, a topic also being studied by many Holmes Scholars and Holmes Master’s Students.

A key takeaway from this discussion for me as a facilitator was a need for continued collaborative and cross-program dialogue, reflection, and action. The work to change the status quo of current and future educators has many fronts, each with strong identities, strategies, and energies – but they would be so much more successful if they united their efforts. Increased cross-program collaboration would grow the potential for effective support, mentorship, and elevation of current and future educators who represent the underrepresented. As our country faces continued hardships and suffering, shared knowledge and information will be our collective power used to support those most in need of education as a mechanism of liberation.

To view the video recording of this session and other Annual Meeting content, visit the AACTE Learning Center.

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Dana Dunwoody

Boston University, Holmes Scholars Council President, 2017-2019