Katiusca Moreno, Senior Partner
Most of us remember the teachers who made a powerful difference in our lives. I remember the ones who felt like family.
For me, Ms. Heyward was one of those teachers. She was my seventh grade social studies teacher who kept a small Puerto Rican flag on her desk, gave instructions in Spanglish and often said, “but you need to know that’s not the full story,” while teaching U.S. history. (In case you’re wondering, that’s me on the top row, first from the left, on Picture Day.)
Being Latina and the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, I felt connected to Ms. Heyward because she too was Latina. She spoke Spanish, like me and mami, who until then had relied on me to be her interpreter at parent-teacher conferences. I still remember the smile of relief that came over mami’s face when Ms. Heyward said, “No te preocupes. Hablo español tambien” “Don’t worry, I speak Spanish too.”
A few months later, Ms. Heyward was gone. I don’t know if she took a job at a different school or if she left teaching. All I know is that mami never came back for a parent-teacher conference and my connections to teachers from then on were few and far between. She was the first, and only, Latina teacher I had throughout my K-12 public school experience.
Teachers of color like Ms. Heyward are still few and far between these days.
Only about one in five educators in public schools are teachers of color. Meanwhile, students of color account for more than half of the PreK-12 student population. In some communities, students go all 14 years of their schooling without having a single teacher who looks like them.
Now more than ever, as the education sector plans for recovery from an unprecedented year, we must prioritize teacher diversity in our public schools. Hiring and retaining effective teachers of color is one of the ways that we can reimagine education to work better for all children, especially those most affected by racial and economic inequities.
Today, NewSchools, with lead funding from the Walton Family Foundation, is opening a $2.5 million funding opportunity focused on recruiting, developing, and retaining educators of color.
Today, NewSchools, with lead funding from the Walton Family Foundation, is opening a $2.5 million funding opportunity focused on recruiting, developing, and retaining educators of color. A significant body of research shows greater teacher diversity within a school yields higher expectations, fewer discipline referrals, richer curricula, less bias, and better academic results for all students, especially students of color and Black boys in particular.
As the new Senior Partner leading the Diverse Leaders investment area, I am excited to work in partnership with innovators to launch bold ideas to diversify our nation’s public schools. I am also looking forward to supporting our existing ventures as they move from early stage planning to sustaining and scaling their ideas for increasing teacher diversity.
In 2019, our funding and customized support helped 14 organizations develop, pilot and scale their ideas. Our ventures are currently cultivating and sustaining teachers through a variety of efforts, including through teacher residency programs, fellowships, and experiences focused on providing affinity spaces, mentorship, resources, and support.
Aside from grooming and sustaining teachers of color, these organizations are preparing teachers to lead in a different way. And in doing so they are causing schools to rethink how they engage and support students. Robert Hendricks III, one of our grantees, is the founder and executive director of He Is Me Institute, an organization working to grow the number of Black male educators. For him, teacher diversity is a means to a larger goal. “It is not just about the face of education being different but also about bringing in a difference of perspective and different impact, so that kids can grow up with a different relationship with school,” he tells us.
“It is not just about the face of education being different but also about bringing in a difference of perspective and different impact, so that kids can grow up with a different relationship with school.” —Robert Hendricks III, NewSchools grantee and founder of He Is Me Institute.
This brings me back to Ms. Heyward, the first teacher of color I had. Although she was my teacher for only a brief time, she connected with me and mami. I felt seen — we felt seen. It’s past time for all students, especially students of color to be seen and to see themselves reflected in the adults responsible for their learning.
If you’re an innovator focused on recruiting and supporting teachers of color like Ms. Heyward, we want to partner with you and help you achieve your vision. Learn more here.