Forty percent of Connecticut's student population is made up of minorities but only eight percent of the state's teachers are minorities, and only one percent men. Now there's a bipartisan push to put more people who look like their pupils at the front of the classroom.
When a student has a teacher of color they’re more likely to feel that they can be successful and student outcome data suggests that they do better.
Connecticut’s 2019 teacher of the year is a real-life example of those statistics.
“I had a minority teacher my senior year in high school and that inspired me by seeing her in the classroom that I could be a teacher as well,” Sheena Graham of Bridgeport explained.
Now the high school music teacher from Bridgeport is urging lawmakers to do more to recruit and retain other minority teachers.
“Knowing that the climate is welcoming to all people all of the time will be very important to retaining minority teachers.
She said in many instances a minority teacher may be the only teacher of color in the building. Faith Sweeney said that’s been her experience as an elementary teacher in Westport, but she’s never felt isolated.
“I work in a predominately white community and by my presence students are able to see me, hear me, and they’re able to not judge me based on misconceptions or even unconscious bias,” Sweeney explained.
Lawmakers are looking to create a pipeline program for minority paraeducators interested in becoming teachers.
“Many of these people are working in these school systems, they live in the districts, they’re not going anywhere, they’re married to those children and they’re married to that community. Those are the ones we need to be in those classrooms in front of our children,” said Sen. Dog McCroy (D – Bloomfield).
The bill also includes training on hiring bias and seeks ways of opening up opportunities to minority college students interested in teaching.
“We all want mentors and role models to look up to and I think to have a teacher that loks like you and has shared your experiences I think goes a long way,” Rep. Noreen Kokoruda (R-Milford said.
“Having diversity in your classroom is sometimes into a window into another culture and in many ways for students it’s a mirror that they could do that as well.
McCrory said this bill earmarks $1 million for the program, which is enough to put 25 more minority teachers in classroom over the next year.