Author Archives: Woody

State Teacher of the Year: ‘Representation Matters’

Kim King, Connecticut’s 2022 state teacher of the year, speaking to a diverse group of future teachers, shared her personal perspective as a Korean American on the need to increase the diversity of the educator workforce in Connecticut.

Kim King, 2022 CT Teacher of the Year

Ms. King, an art teacher in Mansfield, spoke to more than 100 students attending an Educators Rising conference. The program provides classes and clinical experience to encourage high school students to pursue careers in eduction. Central Connecticut State University hosted the virtual event.

Following are excerpts from her remarks.

Feeling Hopeful

“Seeing so much diversity in our pre-service educators gives me hope. I went through elementary, high school, college, and graduate school without ever seeing a teacher who looked like me.

“This lack of representation was especially damaging because I’m an inter-country, transnational adoptee, which means I grew up outside of my race and culture. I grew up in a white family where I learned it was ungrateful to ask about being adopted or even being Korean. I was their kid. End of story.

“However well intentioned, it was extremely misguided. I was forced to shape my identity of what it means to be Asian in America based on inaccurate depictions in the media and commonly held stereotypes from the adults around me.

“I carried for the first part of my life shame in my identity. I didn’t see myself reflected in the American experience, our country’s history, or even my school. But hopefully, the next generation of students will see themselves reflected in their teachers and in the content being taught in their classrooms.

“Representation matters. It is critical during a time when some states are limiting their educators’ ability to teach the truth.

Teaching Is an Act of Hope

“Who we are – our histories, our experiences – all inform who we will be as teachers. Teaching is a radical practice. It is an act of hope. Whether you consider yourself an optimist or not, teaching is the ultimate act of optimism.

“You have to believe that what you are doing will impact future generations. You have to have faith that the seeds you are planting today will bear fruit years from now. Otherwise, why teach?

“Teaching is fundamentally about connections and the profound impact a relationship can have on a student. It is the small gesture or words that stick with a student long after the memories of a lesson have faded. It is making a student feel seen, heard, and empowered that matters.

Students at 22 high schools in 19 cities and towns are participating in Educator Rising, which provides coursework and clinical experience to students to encourage them to pursue careers in education.

Connecticut Laser-Focused on Educator Diversity

Since 2017, school districts in Connecticut have hired more than 1,900 educators of color, surpassing the goal set by the State Board of Education in its five-year strategic plan.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), a wide range of evidence supports the benefits of a diverse educator workforce. Benefits include gains in student achievement as well as lower dropout rates and higher college admissions.

Multi-Pronged Approach

Since achieving its goal, the CSDE has been implementing a multi-pronged approach to further diversify the educator workforce in the state’s public schools. Key initiatives include the following:

A Guidebook for Hiring and Selection prepared by the CSDE provides support and guidance to help school districts increase the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of their educator workforces. 

An Enhanced Educator Certification Reciprocity Policy streamlines the processing of certification of educators who hold valid and active out-of-state certification. This is expediting efforts to recruit diverse, high-quality educators from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. 

NextGen Educators gives undergraduate educator candidates the opportunity to work in school districts to gain valuable experience and gives districts immediate access to new talent while addressing staffing shortages.

Educators Rising introduces middle- and high-school students to careers in education. In the 2021-22 school year, the program has nearly 500 students enrolled in clubs and courses in 22 schools in 19 mostly urban districts, which have high numbers of students of color. 

The Male Educator Network (MEN) initiative, a subset of Educators Rising, focuses solely on young men of color with an interest in careers in education. Currently, there are two pilot sites located at E. Hartford High School and New Britain High School.

TEACH Connecticut supports aspiring educators with free, one-on-one support, financial aid resources, information on educator-preparation programs, and more. In year three of the program, TEACH CT supported more than 500 applicants, 41 percent of whom identify as people of color and 39 percent of whom want to teach in a subject shortage area.

Connecticut Troops to Teachers aims to address teacher shortage areas, increase the number of male teachers of color, and reduce veteran unemployment.

The Minority Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council is developing strategies to attract middle- and high-school students to careers in education, encourage college students of color to enroll in educator-preparation programs, recruit educators from other states, and more. 

Virtual Career Fairs are held in partnership with Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs). Invitations are sent to certified teachers of color who are not currently teaching, recent graduates of Connecticut educator-preparation programs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-Serving institutions. 

RESC Regional Consortia enable diverse local educators to convene and develop workforce diversity plans that address attracting, recruiting, hiring, supporting, and retaining educators.

The EdKnowledge Online Repository hosts promising practices and models of success to retain educators of color. 

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2 Scholars Honored, Sen. McCrory Named Diversity Champion

The Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored two UConn students and cited State Senator Douglas McCrory as its first Diversity Champion in a virtual celebration on April 5 attended by more than 50 supporters, public officials, and educators including previous scholarship recipients.

Receiving scholarships were Saraya Lewis, a junior secondary English major, and Tamashi Hettiarachchi, a master’s student in chemistry education. Read more.

Saraya Lewis
Tamashi Hettiarachchi

The Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored Senator McCrory as its first Diversity Champion, in recognition of his accomplishments in advancing educator diversity in Connecticut’s public schools.

State Senator Douglas McCrory

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, a 1998 recipient of the Alma Exley Scholarship, congratulated Ms. Lewis and Ms. Hettiarachchi by video.

Dr. Miguel Cardona

Long-Time Advocate

Senator McCrory has long been an advocate for greater diversity in the educator workforce in Connecticut. He has been an eloquent spokesperson for educator diversity.

He has represented Hartford, Bloomfield, and Windsor in the State Senate since 2018. Previously, he served six terms in the state House of Representatives.

He is the father of important legislation to bolster minority teacher recruitment and retention. Last year, he led bipartisan approval of legislation implementing a variety of initiatives to promote greater educator diversity.

Zoom session brings together supports and public officials.

In 2019, as Chairman of the Education Committee, he was instrumental in crafting and passing legislation implementing the inclusion of African American and Latino American studies – first in the nation — and he continues to work to update and improve the state’s school curriculum.

Diversity Initiatives

Over the years, Senator McCrory has supported a variety of diversity initiatives. He was instrumental in:

  • The creation of the Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council. The council is developing strategies for educator diversity and cultural competency instruction for teachers and future teachers.
  • Legislation ensuring fairness in teacher certification and to streamline certification of bilingual teachers.
  • Supporting a law several years ago to require school districts to hire at least 250 new minority teachers and administrators per year. Over the past five years, school districts hired more than 1,900 new minority educators.

         An educator for 30 years, he has served as a teacher and administrator in Hartford Public Schools and currently is in a leadership position at the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC).