It may have looked like a typical information session for prospective college applicants, but when students from urban school districts came to campus recently, it was to hear about something more than the forthcoming Wellness Center and various student activities. It was to discover if they are “called” to the field of teaching.
The early February “Call to Teaching” event was the second year Worcester State University offered this program, jointly with the Worcester Public Schools and Quinsigamond Community College. The aim is to encourage urban high school and middle school students to consider becoming teachers, consider studying at their local state university to do so, and to address misconceptions about the profession.
Three former students from Worcester Public Schools spoke about why they became a teacher and extolled the virtues of being a teacher. Jennessa Burks (WSU’s first graduate from the math and elementary education major), a teacher at Elm Park Elementary School, Thomas Toney a mathematics teacher at Worcester East Middle School, and Cherisa Hernandez, a mathematics teacher from South High Community School spoke about their experiences and satisfaction as teachers, as well as challenges they faced.
Worcester State student Jimmy Nguyen, who is majoring in elementary education and mathematics for elementary educators, spoke about his passion for teaching, and following his own dream to become a teacher at a time when his parents, who were immigrants from Vietnam, had other plans for him. He encouraged the students listening to consider teaching as a career option.
“There is national concern that teacher preparation institutions are not attracting teachers of color,” said Dr. Raynold M. Lewis, associate dean of education and point person for the ALANA Teacher Pipeline Committee. “To address this crisis in keeping with WSU strategic plan, which is to enroll and retain diverse and motivated students, WSU is committed to changing the way it recruits students from diverse populations.
“The population of ‘students of color’ is the majority in our schools while the teachers of color is just a small percentage. That needs to be changed,” he said via email, after the event.
The National Center for Education Statistics has projected that the new collective majority of minority schoolchildren in U.S. public schools is 50.3 percent and will continue to grow over the coming years. According to Leslie Maxwell in an Education Week article on the subject, “The enrollment milestone underscores a host of challenges for educators, including more students living in poverty, more who will require English-language instruction, and more whose life experiences will differ from those of their teachers, who remain overwhelmingly white.”
In addition to the University’s commitment to this annual event, WSU also plans on bringing the program to local and surrounding community organizations, including the Worcester Guidance Center, Girls Inc., the Nativity School, Auburn Public Schools, and Southbridge Public Schools.
“There’s no question that teachers of all shapes, sizes, and colors can be outstanding educators and wonderful mentors,” said President Barry Maloney when speaking to the students, “and it is also important that young people see themselves reflected in those who are teaching them.”
“We hope when you explore this ‘university in your back yard’ that you will like what you see, and we want you to think about teaching. Worcester’s future school children need you,” he added.
This event also was organized by the WSU Admissions Department.
About the photo: WSU’s Associate Dean of Education Dr. Raynold M. Lewis introduces WSU education major Jimmy Nguyen
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