Cheyney University is looking to create a pipeline for more diverse teachers in the Pennsylvania school system.
According to Chalkbeat, Last week at a Board of Education Philadelphia school district officials talked about statistics that showed a 200% increase year over year in teacher resignations along with numerous other problems that the school district was facing when it comes to educators.
The meeting also takes place at a time when the ratio of students to teachers of color in Pennsylvania is among the worst in the nation. And in a Philadelphia School District where there is a drastic need for more diverse representation to connect with students, Cheyney could be a crucial asset.
Cheyney is the oldest historically black college and university (HBCU) in the country and has been offering opportunities to Black students for decades. The collaboration among Cheyney, the School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the Community College of Philadelphia could be another way to help the HBCU with its mission. The program will track students who are in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, and encourage them to go into teaching. To apply to the program, a student has to be a graduating senior with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The student must also achieve at least 1,000 or higher on the SAT.
“A lot of people don’t know, but I did my undergrad at Cheyney studying business and economics because I thought that was something I really wanted to do at that time,” said Joyce Abbott who attended Cheyney University’s graduate program for elementary education and is the inspiration behind the new hit comedy “Abbott Elementary”. “But the love for teaching has always been a part of my life with my family.”
“I will tell you a lot of the stronger teachers in Philadelphia obtained their education degree from Cheyney,” Abbott continued, according to Chalkbeat. “They would go into schools and just be phenomenal. And that was a direct result of the instruction and training they received from Cheyney.”
District officials say that they will dedicate resources to help improve the number of diverse teachers who are hired in their schools and remain at their schools.
Cheyney President Aaron Walton thinks Cheyney could help with these issues. The school has a summer program called Aspire to Educate or A2E and it could help inspire high school students to consider a career in education. There is no cost for the program and it’s built to show students the benefits of teaching.
The problems with finding diverse teachers exist in more places than in the state of Pennsylvania. According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, about 79% of U.S. public school teachers are white; Black teachers accounted for about 7% of the country’s teaching force, while Latino teachers accounted for 9%, and Asian American teachers 2%.
The need for Black teachers is crucial because oftentimes they can bridge the gap for many Black students and connect with them in meaningful ways. Representation matters and will always be a vital part of creating opportunities for underrepresented communities.
“A lot of times in their neighborhood they don’t see a lot of positive role models,” Abbott said. “And as a Black teacher, you can relate to the things they are going through.”