“Without question, when the majority of students in public schools are students of color and only 18 percent of our teachers are teachers of color, we have an urgent need to act. We’ve got to understand that all students benefit from teacher diversity. We have strong evidence that students of color benefit from having teachers and leaders who look like them as role models and also benefit from the classroom dynamics that diversity creates. But it is also important for our white students to see teachers of color in leadership roles in their classrooms and communities. The question for the nation is how do we address this quickly and thoughtfully?”
This was spoken by then Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. while speaking at Howard University on March 8, 2016. While students of color are expected to make up 56 percent of the student population by 2024, the elementary and secondary educator workforce is still overwhelmingly white. This was a statement published by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
One of our Chicago schools, Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park has an answer to that great challenge. Addressing the need head-on in 2017 teacher Ms. Michelle Wintrich became the coordinator of the “Introduction to Teaching” program that has successfully exposed McKinley Park’s high school students to this noble profession. The Introduction to Teaching program is open to10th-12th graders who take college-level education courses, such as child psychology, and are connected with mentors who are educators in the field. At least twice per week, these students have the opportunity to work with the primary children by reading to them and tutoring them.
One of McKinley Park’s external partners is the prestigious Golden Apple Foundation (GAF). Golden Apple is Illinois’ premier organization committed to preparing teachers for rural, suburban, and urban schools of need in Illinois through its Scholars and Accelerators programs. Through that partnership, several newly graduated teacher-scholars have been placed in HSA McKinley Park. “Being able to connect with Concept Schools' administrators, and staff who share our values and support the Golden Apple mission, has led to several Scholars finding a best-fit position to begin their career!”, says Dr. Talyia Eve Riemer of GAF. Interest in the burgeoning Intro to Teaching program has sparked acknowledgment from GAF by getting scholars and promising high school students together. As Ms. Wintrich, herself a graduate of Concept Schools and now an educator says, “Providing opportunities that open doors for our future Concept graduates brings hope for new teachers. That is why I wanted to create an inspirational teaching career track to help foster and guide our students!”