Janet Noel is the teacher many schools would love to hire. An Afro-Latina from New York City, Noel understands the value of teacher diversity. But after watching other teachers "go through a world of headaches," she wanted no part of it. Why are teachers like Noel so hard to find, and so difficult to keep?
Know the Importance of Diversity
Dave Schmittou, principal of a Florida school with an 80 percent minority student population, sees the importance of teacher diversity. "So often, kids view their teachers as second moms and dads," Schmittou said. "Or in schools like mine, like their real mom and dad."
Schmittou, the 2014 Michigan Principal of the Year, doesn't recruit teachers based solely on race or gender. Instead, he's more concerned that his staff share his vision. "At my school, we work very hard to find people who can relate to our kids and our community," he said. "I hire teachers who view this school as a mission field."
Approximately 30 percent of Schmittou's current staff is nonwhite. He has recruited teachers from 13 different states to work at his school—and he's used some unique strategies to find them.
Use Social Media for Recruitment
Schmittou gained media attention for using Twitter to recruit new teachers. Knowing that 20 percent of Twitter users are in education, Schmittou developed posts and clever ads to attract teachers to his school, and asked other influential educators to retweet his posts.
Schmittou created the hashtag "#WEgotthis," and used it on all of his tweets to create searchable, indexed posts. As a result, he successfully added teachers to his staff from Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Florida. In the future, Schmittou plans to utilize Snapchat and Instagram to reach more recent graduates. If you're looking to build up your staff, understand the audience you're targeting and the social media platforms they use to get their attention.
Schmittou believes the best connections are made in person, so he visits university programs in his area to meet with prospective teachers. "I go to universities all over the region to shake hands and sell our mission," he says.
Further reading: Dealing with Teacher Conflicts
Many universities have developed programs specifically designed to attract and prepare minority teachers. One such program is the Minority Teacher Preparation Program (MTP) at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Focused on creating successful graduates and teachers of color, the MTP program offers students additional support, including specialized advising programs, career and financial counseling, assistance with Praxis tests, student conferences, and information on employment and internship opportunities.
To increase awareness of your own school and its desire to attract qualified minority teachers, your school administrators can partner with these programs or develop contacts and connections with the university to start directing potential candidates your way.
Check Out Alternative Certification Programs
Research has shown more minority teachers are pursuing teaching degrees through alternative certification programs. Many of these programs give teachers the opportunity to begin working in classrooms before completing the program, and offer students the opportunity to work one-on-one with experienced teachers while they're earning their degrees.
Most of these teachers earn money while working, unlike unpaid student teaching, and many alternative certification programs allow teachers to earn a master's degree. This usually means they can enter the profession at a higher pay rate.
Further reading: National Board Certification: The Best Professional Development Move You'll Make
After realizing teaching was her calling, Janet Noel applied to the Teaching Fellows Alternative Certification program in New York City. "The program got me in the classroom faster than any other program would have," Noel said. "I already had two computer degrees, so I wouldn't have wanted to start over again. This was my chance."
Alternative certification programs are a good resource for administrators looking for minority teachers who may be mid-career change or passionate about working with specific student populations.
Consider Grow Your Own Programs
Many schools already have passionate, dedicated community members or paraprofessionals. Wouldn't it be great if they could become teachers? Good news—they can.
Districts across the country are increasing teacher diversity through Grow Your Own programs. These programs encourage and incentivize people to pursue a teaching degree through partnerships between districts and teacher preparation programs. While these programs vary widely, schools in Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, and other states are using Grow Your Own programs to generate new teachers from within the communities their schools serve.
Many schools are challenged with increasing teacher diversity. Finding passionate teachers takes innovation and creativity, and keeping those teachers requires building and promoting a larger vision that gets everyone invested in the future.