Teacher recruitment program seeks to increase number of CT educators of color

Photo of Cayla Bamberger
Educators Rising encourages a group of students who reflect the demographics of their communities to go into teaching.

Educators Rising encourages a group of students who reflect the demographics of their communities to go into teaching.

Educators Rising

Connecticut’s educator workforce doesn’t reflect its diverse student population. Officials say early teacher preparation programs can change that.

At a joint conference between Central Connecticut State University and the education department on Wednesday, Acting Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker said new pipelines and preparation programs could be instrumental in recruiting teachers of diverse backgrounds.

“At the department of education, we’re committed to increasing the racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of our educator workforce by expanding new and unique pathways,” said Russell-Tucker.

Classrooms are set up with COVID-19 precautions in place as students prepare to return five days-a-week at Northeast Elementary School in Stamford, Conn. Monday, March 8, 2021.

Classrooms are set up with COVID-19 precautions in place as students prepare to return five days-a-week at Northeast Elementary School in Stamford, Conn. Monday, March 8, 2021.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Russell-Tucker said one of those pipelines could be Educators Rising, a program that encourages students starting in high school to pursue teaching careers in their communities. More than half of participants are students of color.

The commitment comes amid a renewed focus on race in school curricula and culturally responsive teaching that bridges what students learn in school with their cultures, languages and life experiences.

“We all understand the sense of urgency right now around increasing the number of Connecticut educators of color and encouraging students early on to consider careers in education,” said Russell-Tucker.

Just 9.6 percent of Connecticut’s teacher workforce were educators of color last year, while more than 45 percent of the state’s students identify as people of color. The state’s K-12 schools have seen an increase in educators of color in recent years, but not quickly enough to keep up with statewide increases in Black and Hispanic students.

Numerous studies suggest that students benefit from having a diverse cohort of teachers. Experts agree that students of color, especially boys, have better outcomes when at least one teacher looks like they do. White students benefit, too, when they learn under the direction of teachers of diverse backgrounds.

Educators Rising includes curriculum, teacher training and micro-credentials for student-teachers. State officials have described the program as a proven grow-your-own educator model that encourages community members to become teachers.

Jose Carrillo, the national student president of Educators Rising and a current student at Texas State University, said the program has introduced him to the highs and lows of education and the teaching profession.

“For me, being a future teacher of color, I’ve realized there’s not that many teachers who look like myself,” said Carrillo, who’s in his third year of the national program.

Carrillo told Hearst Connecticut Media that he grew up in a Title I school, where most of his peers were minorities and qualified for free and reduced lunch, and previously wanted to be a lawyer.

“Because of Educators Rising, I’ve been able to understand these kinds of things, and how to help students — when I do become a teacher — who have that similar background as myself, and how I can become a role model for them,” he said.

Officials announced last fall that the program would be expanded to the collegiate level in partnership with Central Connecticut State University, and from New Britain to 10 districts. These include Stamford, Danbury, Waterbury, New Haven, Hamden, Meriden, Hartford, Windsor and New London.

“As we expand Educators Rising throughout the state, it will be a game-changer in our efforts to advance culturally responsive educational practices and address the statewide gap between educators and students of color,” said Russell-Tucker.