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The color of teaching

Samantha Dutton
Opinion Editor

When considering the career path you are going to follow, you might find yourself asking, “Why teach?” Forest E. Witcraft responds to this question with, “One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important to the life of a child.”
How powerful is that to know that you potentially have to power to positively change the life of a child? Contrary to what the job market may claim, teachers are needed. In fact, 2.2 million teachers will be needed within the next decade to staff our public schools. While we consider the melting pot of the student population the teacher population is less diverse.
Typically you find that the average teacher is caucasian. Educators at schools tend to fail at reflecting the melting pot that constitutes their students and there is a need for this to change. The Color of Teaching is an organization on campus facilitated by advisor Dr. Miriam Witmer and President Emily Longnecker. The purpose of this organization is to provide a support system for minority students in the field of education.
Additionally, members will be trained to be a mentor to middle school and high school-aged students in the hopes that they too will want to pursue a career in education. Part of what the mentoring program does is bring the students to the Millersville campus so they can get a preview of what college life is like. The benefit of this activity is two-fold: students are given a mentor to look up to, and in turn the mentor has someone that they can share their experiences with. This is a great opportunity for college students to give back to their community. Dr. Witmer explains that the underlying idea for bringing high school/middle school students in is to give them the opportunity to see themselves in a college atmosphere which then in turn gives them the thinking that college is in fact an option for them.
For many minority students college seems like an unrealistic dream due mostly to the high cost of higher education. Students develop this mentality that if they are “smart enough” and are able to go to school they mine as well become a doctor or a lawyer, never giving the field of education a second glance. It is because of this that we are seeing fewer and fewer minority teachers in our classrooms. The Color of Teaching began developing in 2003 when Dr. Witmer began looking more closely at the reasoning behind minority students refraining from pursuing a career in education.
Part of the reasoning behind this is that the teachers they have had in the past do not advocate enough for their position. Students often miss out on the pros of teaching and often are only informed of the negatives.
Another reason to consider is that minority students are not seeing people of color as teacher role models, so they immediately assume that teaching is not an option for them. I had not even considered this until I witnessed the lack of minority teachers in the Philadelphia school system where I have spent time working.
It is also important to note that for minorities of low socio-economic statuses, it may be difficult for them to even pass the Praxis or Papas exams that are required to teach. This is certainly another deterrent. With all this being said Millersville does take the forefront on this issue of the lack of minority teachers and is working to make that change.
In my opinion it is important to have a diverse staff in our school system. No one says it better than Denise Lee who states, “Minority teachers act as cultural interpreters for the entire school community.” As you increase the amount of diverse staff members, you increase the cultural competency of all staff and students if they are willing to learn from each other.
As we continue to grow as a nation it is important that we advocate for the need of minority teachers in our classrooms. This will open up our students and our children to the different cultures that are around us and teach us to be empathetic as opposed to critical. We should be embracing the different educational opportunities that are available to us when there is a minority teacher educating our students rather than shying away from it. As a growing population with an eclectic mix of ethnicities we need to be advocates for diversity in the classroom.