Post by Eboni Walker, 24 February 2022
When I returned to teaching after Hurricane Katrina, I found myself in a new community in Montgomery County, Maryland. I recall meeting with a recruitment staff member at the county, and being offered a variety of schools to choose from. Though the school district was large, I was sure of a couple of things:
a) I wanted to teach kindergarten, and
b) I wanted to be in a school that needed me.
As I narrowed down my choices, I noticed that one school in particular, whose student population was mostly Hispanic/Latino, only had a small percentage of its staff who were people of color. And this was especially true for the African American/Black students. So I intentionally decided to take a position at that school because I knew the children needed to see me.
With a school staff of nearly 70, I was one of a handful of Black teachers. I realized my presence mattered in that building — for the children, their families, and even my colleagues.
Research confirms that when children are taught by those who look like them, they perform better academically, yet there is a national teacher of color shortage in our country. The Hechinger Report posits “Burnout, already high, has risen during the pandemic, especially among African American teachers, according to recent research by the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan research firm.”
Recruiting and retaining a more racially diverse teaching workforce has become a priority now more than ever. This is evident here locally in our area, as New Schools for New Orleans has recently obtained $14.3M in funding from the US Department of Education to promote teacher recruitment, retention, development and compensation in charter schools.
With nearly 90% of our public school population being children of color, we need more teachers of color, and especially Black teachers, to join the ranks in our schools. We can encourage those who are attending our schools today to become the “home-grown” teachers we will need tomorrow — because a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community matters!