Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

"Home-Growing" Teachers of Color: Lessons Learned from a Town-Gown Partnership

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

"Home-Growing" Teachers of Color: Lessons Learned from a Town-Gown Partnership

Article excerpt

Many institutions that prepare teachers profess a commitment to issues of diversity and educational equity in their mission and vision statements. However, despite the fact that the enrollment of students of color in institutions of higher education has increased by 48% over the last ten years (Harvey, 2002), the racial/ ethnic composition of teacher preparation programs has changed relatively little. Although teacher preparation programs have had a larger pool of students of color from which to recruit, they have not been successful in attracting more students of color into the profession through traditional preservice pathways. If diversifying the teaching force is a goal from which people of color as well as Whites benefit, then the active recruitment of people of color into the profession should be part of the work of teacher preparation programs and district-based teacher recruitment efforts. As such, colleges and schools of education need to develop new approaches aimed at improving the recruitment, retention, and preparation of teachers of color.

This article explores the challenges associated with diversifying the teaching force through preservice teacher education programs and forwards "home-growing"--that is, recruiting individuals to work as educators in the communities in which they were raised and educated--as one strategy to do so. It highlights Project TEACH, a town-gown partnership between an institution of higher education and a local community, examining features of the program that were identified by participants as influential to their successful transition into the teaching profession.

Home-grown teachers of color bring many benefits to the classroom that go beyond their racial or ethnic identification. For example, Sonia Nieto (1999) suggests that teachers of color have often experienced marginalization and alienation in their own schooling and can relate to students of color in ways that many White teachers cannot. Jaqueline Jordan Irvine (2003) contends that many teachers of color serve as cultural translators and cultural brokers for culturally diverse students. She writes,

   They tend to be knowledgeable, sensitive, and comfortable with
   students' language, style of presentation, community values,
   traditions, rituals, legends, myths, history, symbols, and norms.
   Using their cultural expertise, they help students make appropriate
   adaptations for and transitions into mainstream culture. (pp.
   55-56)

Many teachers of color have valuable insight into the cultures of their students. Based on their experiences, this particular group of teachers is often well-versed in the sociocultural realities faced by many students in these communities, and they can use this information to inform their practice. In what follows, I present a brief overview of Project TEACH and the emergence of the town-gown partnership and highlight three structural aspects of the program that were central to meeting the goals of the partnership--the home-growing approach, supplemental preparation around issues related to social justice and educational equity, and enhanced support spanning from the pre-application process through their induction years in the profession. I also comment on some of the challenges associated with sustaining such an effort and how these issues more broadly impact the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. Finally, I conclude by discussing some of lessons learned from this partnership that can assist institutions of higher education and others who are committed to increasing the number of teachers of color.

Theoretical Framework and Methodology

I approach this work from sociocultural and critical perspectives, remaining cognizant of the context in which attempts to increase the number of teachers of color take place and the sociopolitical factors that shape these efforts. I draw from Critical Race (CRT) and LatCrit theories, which center race in examinations of social phenomena. …

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