Future Educators of Diversity were at the top of the agenda at West Hartford’s Board of Education meeting this month, where the Board and community members learned about the organization’s mission, achievements, and planned activities.
Future Educators of Diversity was piloted in West Hartford, where it has grown and is very active.
Since then, similar clubs have been established in four other Connecticut school districts as part of CEA’s ongoing efforts to bring greater diversity to our state’s teaching force,” says CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas, who was awarded a grant from the National Education Association to create and expand “grow your own” high school clubs that provide underrepresented students with the tools, knowledge, and support to enter the teaching profession. “We are excited to see new groups starting up, as well as established organizations—such as the one in West Hartford—grow and thrive.”
West Hartford’s FEoD, a combined group of students from Conard and Hall high schools, meets every Thursday during the school year and encourages students of diverse backgrounds to examine issues related to race and equity in education and to explore careers in teaching—a profession that is largely white and female.
“We recently had student-led classes where our club members educated underclassmen about human rights issues and facilitated discussions with them,” said FEoD member Matthew Schatz. Preparing a well-thought-out lesson plan and implementing it, he explained, was an eye-opening experience. “You don’t think about how a teacher stands up there and does this every day,” he said. “It takes a lot of work and planning.”
“Having the ability to step into the shoes of a teacher and leader is extremely important to me,” said fellow club member Trisha Doru.
Kaliya Ortiz, a senior at Conard High School, said FEoD’s activities around college applications, scholarships, and campus tours “help students like me see a path to becoming an educator.”
Most of West Hartford’s 20 FEoD members are black or Hispanic, and many are the only students of color in their classes. The majority have not had many—or any—teachers of color in their academic careers, a reality that FEoD clubs around the state are working to change.
“I’m the only person of color in many of my classes,” said student Lillian Black. “Having this club gives me peer support and an outlet to speak freely about racial disparity within the education system.”
Hall High School junior Jules Rose-Hollis added, “While the diversity shortage is not unique, it’s not OK,” said. “Until tenth grade, I never had a teacher of color.” Joining FEoD under the guidance of Hall High School psychology teacher Dr. Lara White has become a game-changer, he said. “I’m thankful for that.”
Bridget Aube, a senior at Hall High School, is one of FEoD’s few white students and appreciates her club members becoming allies for each other. “You learn a lot,” she said.
Reiterating the need to diversify Connecticut’s teaching force, FEoD member Kenya Ferreira told the Board of Education, “We’d like to bring our students back here, to West Hartford’s schools—as teachers.”
CEA has launched a new public awareness campaign aimed at expanding the number of minority teachers. Watch for TV, radio, and web-based ads, and visit cea.org to learn more.