Why inspiring Black students to teach is key to filling K-12 shortages

'Show them how they can be transformative in changing lives and impacting the next generation'

Your district’s future, diverse teacher workforce—and a key, long-term solution to teaching shortages—is likely sitting in your classrooms right now.

But they may be lured into other professions if you and your education teams don’t dispel some financial myths and intentionally encourage them to pursue a career in K-12, says Shayna Terrell, the Center for Black Educator Development‘s director of pipeline programming.

“You have to invest in them if you want to address teachers shortage and the diversity problem in education,” Terrell says. “Start telling young people that you see qualities in them that are worthy of them being a teacher. Do as much as you can to show them the enjoyment in the profession.”

The Philadelphia-based Center for Black Educator Development has been focused on recruiting, sustaining and retaining teachers of color since before the pandemic, which, Terrell adds, has only increased the strain on the K-12 workforce. “The teaching profession isn’t really marketed to African Americans or Latinx students,” Terrell says.”They are sometimes actively discouraged from going into the teaching field.”

For one, educators must dispel the myth that teachers can’t make a good living in the profession. Second, K-12 students of color will be motivated to teach if shown the opportunity to reform the system and make instruction more culturally relevant and equitable.

Students, if asked, may not express an interest in teaching until they understand it’s a way to give back to the community while working with children. “Get kids interested in it in a different way and show them how they can be transformative in changing lives and impacting the next generation by joining the teaching force,” she says. “In the current environment we’re in, we need them now more than ever.”

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Her organization has two programs designed to inspire K-12 and college students to teach. The Freedom School Literacy Academy offers six weeks of training to students in K-2 classrooms, where they work with master Black teachers and focus on literacy, phonics and learning loss. The master teachers conduct observations of the students and provide coaching and feedback. The Academy’s students have been hired by the districts where they have trained.

The Liberation Academy is a CTE-style pathway program in which students learn how to promote Black pedagogy and connect social justice to teaching. Terrell points out, “In the high school realm, when students are going through our curriculum, they’re learning a lot about themselves, they’re learning to advocate for themselves and they’re gaining a more positive racial identity.”

Still, it will take several years of committed and intentional actions for the K-12 system to reverse the teacher shortage. “This isn’t going t be a quick fix,” Terrell says. “We’re rebuilding the Black teacher pipeline—we’re working with high school and with college students for four years and we’re supporting folks well into their teaching careers.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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