State education leaders tackle lack of diversity in teaching profession

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Education leaders from around the state came to Richmond on Thursday for the first ever “Teacher of Color” Summit. Their goal is to figure out ways to attract and retain minority teachers in the classroom.

“I have grown up in a house with two parents and a grandfather and many aunts, uncles, and cousins who were all educators and so for me, I was always around education,” Antoinette Rogers with the Virginia Education Association (VEA) said.

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A family of educators is the reason Rogers says she got into education, but according to the numbers, many minorities around the state are not surrounded by minority educators.

“There are some school divisions that don’t have any minority teachers yet they have minority student populations,” said Rogers.

“There are some school divisions that don’t have any minority teachers yet they have minority student populations.”

According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) 50 percent of public school students are minority while only 15 percent of the teaching workforce is. It’s part of the reason VEA and VDOE are holding the summit. Leaders say it will benefit non-minority students as they graduate.

“Exposing them to diversity while they’re going through their K-12 experience is only going to better prepare them for a future world they’re going to be working in,” Leah Walker with VDOE said.

Walker says it could be invaluable to helping student populations that are mostly minority by giving them role models and a chance to develop a relationship with someone that may have a similar background.

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“This person has done something different than what I might see in my immediate community,” Walker said. “Let me find out more about how I might do that myself.”

As for why the number of minority teachers might be so low, Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent offered the following thoughts:

“Students have a lot more options out there and they’re opting for other jobs and other careers,” Trent said.

Trent says lower salaries might be to blame, but she says money isn’t the only thing people should consider as teaching can make a difference few other professions can.

“If you want to change a life then the teaching profession is the way to go,” Trent said.

The summit goes until Saturday.

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