In 2016, Connecticut's Department of Education set a goal to increase the number of teachers of color within schools to 10%. Tuesday, Governor Lamont announced that the state had reached that benchmark.
The state has been working towards that goal for five years. Despite the achievement educators and sponsors of the teacher residency program believe that the number is expected to grow with the initiative.
In 2019, CREC with CSDE support, launched the Connecticut Teacher Residency Program with a goal of recruiting and retaining teachers of color.
Jason Allard is a teacher resident and decided to take the first step towards furthering his educational career this summer.
"Unfortunately, I only had one teacher of color during my entire time between elementary and high school," said Allard, one of the Black male teacher residents. "I was surrounded around so many wonderful teachers and educators during my time with ACES that it made me want to grow professionally and be a better person and make a difference for kids."
This year, the number of teacher residents has increased significantly through the years. The class of 2020 had at least 11 residents, at least 14 in 2021, and 45 teacher residents are enrolled in the program this year.
The TRP embraces an alternative approach to get prospective teachers into the classroom. Teacher residents are able to participate in courses, work with a mentor teacher while receiving pay and benefits and are eligible for a full-time job once they complete the program and certification requirements.
The opportunity has helped prospective teachers like Janay White to learn what it takes to become an educator.
"I always wanted to be a teacher and I did go to college and I have my bachelor's, and at that point it looked like this wasn't going to be the profession for me," said White. "This was like a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to still pursue one of my longtime passions of helping students."
The cost for districts to participate during the next school year is $60,000 per resident.
"We have to work very hard to attract teachers to recruit teachers to make it easier for people to be teachers," said Gov. Ned Lamont.
Other state leaders who have been pushing for a diverse workforce within schools tell NBC Connecticut that the goal is to ensure teachers are able to learn from individuals who may come from similar backgrounds and help them achieve their dreams.
"The data says all children in this country whether they're Black, brown, yellow, green, poor or wealthy learn better when they are taught by a diverse teaching population," said state Sen. Doug McCrory.
One of the districts with a high number of teachers of color is Hartford, with at least 27% of teachers who identify as a person of color.
Between the 2015-2016 school year and the 2019-2020 school year, the district saw a 12% increase of new teachers who identified as a person of color.
"We believe our children are best served by a team of individuals who are representative of the global community for which our students are being prepared. We strive to have the Hartford Public Schools’ team reflect the different perspectives of our families and community so that we can work together to break down barriers, close the opportunity gap, and prepare our students for college and the global workforce. With our targeted recruiting efforts, the percentage of new certified staff, who identify as an educator of color, has increased in Hartford Public Schools."