Three Kalamazoo Public School graduates at Western Michigan University have started a campus group trying to increase the number of minority teachers. Future Teachers of Color (FTC) was founded by three students in Western's College of Education: Sarah Giramia, Hailey Timmerman, and William Wright. It provides support and resources to minority students pursuing careers in teaching. Correction: an earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Sarah Giramia.
The U.S. Department of Education says people of color make up 50-percent of the student population but 80-percent of public school teachers are white. FTC hopes to change that. The group’s public relations officer, Hailey Timmerman, says having more teachers of color in the classroom would improve the learning experiences of minority students. But she says those teachers are now few and far between.
“I can probably count on one, maybe both, hands how many teachers of color that I’ve have from K-12. I really feel like the ones that were of color, there was a different type of connection.”
Timmerman says having more teachers of color would also help white students develop a better understanding of people who are different from themselves.
FTC members say the lack of minorities in teaching is reflected by the lack of diversity in college and university programs training the next generation of teachers. FTC wants to increase minority representation in WMU's education program by providing a support system for its students that will encourage them to graduate.
FTC President William Wright says it plans to engage with Kalamazoo Public School students in outreach activities. The positive influence of a teacher of color led Wright decide he wanted to become a teacher when he was in the fourth grade. He says having a teacher of color can completely change a student’s outlook on school.
“You might persuade them into going into education because you impacted them some way,” Wright says. “And that is usually the main thing about why people go into education because they had a teacher that impacted their life in a way that they wanted to do the same to others.”
Future Teachers of Color began this fall with nearly two dozen members. It hopes to expand to other universities in the future.