With North Carolina facing a shortage of teachers of color, a new local program dedicated to promoting and protecting diversity among educators is accepting applications until Feb. 8.
Made possible by a $4.8 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Diverse and Resilient Educators Advised through Mentorship — or UNC DREAM — program seeks to support and retain teachers of color through a partnership between the School of Education and Durham Public Schools.
“This is a program, a concept, a dream, if you will, that is trying to address educational equity in a very specific and deliberate way,” DREAM Project Director Emily Chávez said.
DREAM is a four-year program that combines both training and mentorship for educators of color. In their first year, applicants who become DREAM residents will receive Master of Arts in Teaching instruction that focuses both on coursework and fieldwork experiences.
“One of the elements of the program is infusing and focusing more on transformative social-emotional learning,” Chávez said. “We focus on equity, looking at the dynamics of power, privilege and different social groups and their relationships.”
DREAM residents also receive $28,000 in financial support during the MAT program and obtain licensure in certain fields of education upon completion of the program.
Then, for the next three years, DREAM residents work full-time as instructors with DPS, receiving mentorship in a teacher-induction program meant to help them overcome the various challenges facing beginning educators.
“In general, we provide ongoing mentorship to really help them become successful and feel very grounded in their teaching practice,” Chávez said.
DREAM’s major focus is addressing the gap between educators and students of color.
While 52.4 percent of public school students were nonwhite in fall 2018, 77 percent of teachers were white in 2017-2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“We are trying to recruit more teachers of color as well as those who might have other marginalized social identities — particularly people coming from first generation or low income backgrounds, having a disability, being LGBTQ+ and more," Chávez said.
Chávez said that her experiences working for DPS, where in 2017-2018 around 31 percent of the student body was Hispanic and 45 percent was Black , made her realize how tremendous the gap between students and educators has grown.
“I was the only Latina teacher for the four years that I taught there (Hillside High School),” Chávez said. “I think students deserve to see diversity as well within their teachers — Latinx teachers, Black teachers, Asian teachers and Native teachers.”
UNC student Teju Koppula shared a similar sentiment on the importance of diverse teachers.
“It adds a more unique perspective to the material taught," Koppula said.
Another focus of DREAM, Chávez said, is ensuring the retention of diverse educators long after the four-year program ends. According to the DREAM website, plans to accomplish this include the use of affinity groups, community-building exercises and other activities which teach best practices for educating diverse students.
“Our educator workforce needs to better reflect the students and communities they serve,” Diana Lys, DREAM assistant dean for educator preparation and accreditation, said in an email. “As a biracial student, I was encouraged to become a teacher because students need to see themselves in their teachers — through DREAM, we hope to build more of that.”
Chávez said that DREAM hopes to create a more positive experience for both students and teachers of color.
By ensuring that educators reflect their students, Chávez said she hopes to promote a future in which North Carolina’s diversity is fully represented and supported.
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