Striving for diverse teaching workforce in classrooms

“It’s very rare to see minorities in education"
Posted at 10:26 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 21:37:17-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Diversity among students in classrooms continues to grow, but when it comes to teacher diversity, the number of students of color often outweighs the number of teachers of color.

Titania Funderburk, student teacher in Zoom interview.

“What does it mean for you to become a teacher of diversity?” Buckley asked. “It means a lot to me — to be a part of diversity of a diverse population of teachers is awesome,” replied Titania Funderburk, student teacher.

SUNY Buffalo State graduate student Funderburk sat on the steps outside Bennett Park Montessori School in Buffalo to talk with me on Zoom. That's where she is student teaching.

She is part of Buffalo State’s Pipeline program that encourages students of color to become school teachers.

If you look at this breakdown in the Buffalo Public School District from a New York State Education Department (NYSED) report issued in 2019, it indicated that in the 2018-2019 school there is just a little more than 14-percent who are teacher of color in city schools.

Here’s the break-down from that 2019 report on the Buffalo Schools diverse population of it’s more than 30,000 students:

  • Black or African American students: 13,842 or 45%
  • Hispanic or Latino students: 6,298 or 21%

However, Buffalo State is educating teachers through the teacher diversity pipeline program and supports an Urban Teacher Academy in Buffalo Schools.

Some future teachers are thrilled to make up a future diverse workforce in the classroom. “I had a lot more diversity among my teachers when I was in school then I see now in schools,” reflected Funderburk.

Funderburk said she is the product of buffalo public schools and recalls having teachers of color when she attended school.

“I went to #43 where the principal was African American — one of my favorite teachers was African American,” recalls Funderburk.

But inside public school classrooms today, the workforce is not reflecting diversity that matches its student populations..

The NYSED report from 2019 stated that in the buffalo public school district it has one teacher of color for every 56 students.

Kara Oliver Perez, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo.

“It’s critically important that, now more than ever, that we are providing mirrors for our children who have so many windows,” remarked Kara Oliver Perez, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo.

Studies and research show having a diverse teaching staff for students in Pre-k through 12th grade benefits all children.

Student teacher Justin Moore inside Tapestry Charter School.

In a third grade classroom at Tapestry Charter, Justine Moore is student teaching.

“It’s very rare to see minorities in education,” stated Moore.

Moore is a senior in Buffalo State's Education program.

Justine Moore is student teaching.

“The students see themselves in us and a lot of them have role models in their life, so they see us as their role model,” Moore noted.

“Diversity is the corner of how we engage effectively, but bring in different ideas, thoughts and passions,” replied Oliver Perez.

State numbers show that between 2011 and 2017 the number of teachers of color in Western New York “declined”.

“In any school — that's suburban schools, charter schools, private schools — I feel like there should be diversity in every school,” said Funderburk.

"Why do you want to become a school teacher?" Buckley questioned.

“I just want to be a part of the village that helps children of color be successful academically,” responded Funderburk.

Buffalo State also supports the Urban Teacher Academy at McKinley high school.

Urban Teacher Academy at McKinley high school.

Kaleena Kenner was among the first class of students to graduated this past June.

She's now a freshman in Buff State's Education program and told me teaching as a woman of color will be important for her.

Kaleena Kenner was among the first class of students to graduated this past June.

“Once you see that there's other people like you — you'll feel more comfortable. If you don't feel comfortable, you won’t learn to your full potential because you're always worried about something,” described Kenner.

The Urban Teacher Academy was created to encourage high school students to become teachers with a promise to teach in city schools in the future.

A second site has been launched at International Preparatory school in Buffalo. For those already student teaching, they're committed to making a difference in growing a diverse workforce in classrooms.

Justin Moore in classroom.

“It builds the connection and enhances the learning environment,” Moore said. “We’re all apart of this world and if I can help children do better now, the world can do better later,” Funderburk replied.