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$6 Million Gift Bolsters Effort To Diversify The Educator Workforce

Teacher working with students in classroom

The University of Washington today announced a $6 million anonymous gift earmarked to bolster diversity in the education workforce, a key driver in ultimate K-12 student success, especially for students of color.

The gift will expand financial support for and recruitment of teacher candidates from diverse backgrounds, including candidates of color and those who are multilingual. In addition, the gift provides professional learning and supports to enhance retention in the teaching workforce, and evaluation and dissemination of the key learnings to aid efforts across the nation to boost the racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of teachers entering the profession.

“This extraordinary and generous donation will help to develop a more diverse and representative educational workforce,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “We are deeply grateful for this forward-looking gift that will do so much to benefit students, especially multilingual students and students of color, as well as the students they go on to teach and mentor as educators.”

Exposure to even one teacher of the same race can significantly improve the odds a student of color will be placed in a gifted education program, graduate from high school and/or attend college, research shows. Yet in Washington state, where nearly half of K-12 students are people of color, only 11% of teachers are people of color.

Advancing equity through education long has been a foundation of the College of Education’s mission, said Dean Mia Tuan.

“Students thrive when they see themselves in and can relate to their teachers,” Tuan said. “To help all students achieve their fullest potential, we need to invest in systems that support and empower the teachers who serve them.”

To achieve this end, researchers say that universities must lower or remove financial burdens of pursuing a teaching degree for students who identify as students of color or are multilingual. Schools also need to recruit aspiring teachers from diverse communities. And, they must provide additional supports, including mentoring and professional learning, for this cohort. 

That’s why support of education initiatives is key, said Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau.

“Our students and their families have been clear — representation matters in our classrooms,” said Juneau. “That’s why a racially diverse and culturally responsive workforce is a key priority of Seattle Public Schools. 

“Our district is fortunate to have The Academy of Rising Educators and Seattle Teacher Residency — partnership programs designed to recruit, support and retain educators of color. We must bring these types of programs to scale in our region if we want to truly transform the teaching profession and ensure success for all children. I deeply appreciate our partnership with the University of Washington and this investment in the future of our profession, our students and communities.”

The gift will provide broad financial support – including tuition assistance, textbooks and more — to aspiring teachers from diverse backgrounds, including the creation of an endowed fund to provide financial support for diverse teacher candidates in perpetuity. The gift also will provide for two additional staff members in the College’s teacher education program to support recruitment and retention of diverse candidates.

And the programs don’t stop at graduation. The College provides support for graduates of teacher preparation programs as they enter the education workforce. Research shows that investing in new teachers’ professional learning and growth in their first few years is essential to teacher retention.

“Recruitment and preparation of educators of color is only the beginning,” said Teddi Beam-Conroy, director of the College’s Elementary Teacher Education Program. “We have to work in partnership with local schools, districts and community organizations to support our graduates who may be one of a few — or perhaps the only — teacher of color in their buildings. Investing in their development as professionals and leaders in the field is absolutely essential.”

There’s also support for the College’s researchers and teacher educators as they implement and refine efforts to diversify the workforce. A key goal is to learn what is effective in recruiting and retaining diverse teachers so those learnings can be shared with other education schools.    

The $6 million is a foundational gift in the College’s $26 million strategic initiative to diversify the educator workforce. Ultimately, the initiative aims to eliminate financial barriers encountered by diverse candidates by offsetting tuition and other expenses for about 55 teacher candidates each year, in return for a commitment to teach in under-resourced local schools. The initiative also will ensure continuing support for recruitment, retention, mentorship and professional development efforts.

The gift comes at the end of the University’s philanthropic campaign, “Be Boundless – For Washington, For the World.”


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