Diversity among teachers is lacking

September 9, 2018 GMT

For some time, I have been concerned about the direction in which education is moving. For some reason, teachers of color are not represented proportionately in our classrooms in Cabell County at the elementary, secondary and university levels. It is also a problem all over the state of West Virginia, as well around the country.

I learned this from delegates at a convention I attended in San Antonio, Texas, in July. I hesitate to say the problem is due to racism; however, many times I am approached by parents who ask me, “Where are the black teachers?”

I recently attended a summit on diversity, which concentrated on the lack of African American faculty and administrators at the college and university levels in West Virginia. I was stunned to learn just how few there actually are! My question is this: How much recruitment is actually being done? Are there any professionals attempting to guide young high school graduates of color into the field of teacher education?

I am a retired high school teacher and now serve as a substitute teacher. One day, an African American student approached me and commented, “It’s so good to see a teacher who is the same color as me.” It made me stop and concentrate hard on what he said. When the school system is devoid of teachers whom certain students can relate to, many times negative behavior sets in on the part of students, and sometimes, on the part of white teachers.

When one takes a close look at Betsy DeVos, our secretary of education, we must wonder what the president was thinking. This individual never attended a public school, nor did her children. When she testified before the Senate on education, she was not capable of answering the most basic questions regarding public education because her interest lies in charter schools, which operate as private, for-profit.

I mention that fact to say this: Parents, teachers and educators in West Virginia and around the country need to pay close attention to the policies being mandated from the Department of Education that will adversely affect our children and grandchildren for years to come.

We must consider closely those who are candidates to our local board of education, state and national senators, delegates and congressmen. If we do this, I am certain that our most prized possession, our children, will have the state-of-the-art equipment, necessary financial resources and top-notch faculty (including ample representation of teachers of color) in the classrooms. If we don’t, we have only ourselves to blame for negative outcomes.

If gives me hope, knowing that Cabell County requires diversity training for teachers. At least, this is a move forward.

Sylvia Ridgeway is a lifelong resident of Huntington.