Category Archives: Diversity Resources

Articles and research on diversity in education

Celebrating Community at Multicultural Night

Students at Mayberry School in East Hartford comprise many ethnicities, hail from many countries, and speak many languages. In fact, one-third of the students are English-learners who speak 15 other languages.

This rich diversity was celebrated last week at the school’s annual Multicultural Night.

“The purpose of the event is to invite families into our school to celebrate the community and its diversity,” said Ivy Horan, first-grade teacher and co-leader of the school’s Equity Team, which hosted the event.

The Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored Ms. Horan in 2019, when she was a student in the Neag School of Education at UConn.

ivy Horan, first-grade teacher

Celebrating Diverse Cultures

Families were invited to wear clothing from their cultures, and they brought food representing their families. After dinner, students performed in a talent show, which included instrumental music, songs in Spanish, and the reading of a poem in Spanish.

Then everyone was treated to a performance by the Drill Team, composed of 25 fourth- and fifth- graders. “The Drill Team practices all year, while also meeting to discuss the importance of community, diversity, and equity,” said Ms. Horan, who helps lead the group.

Mayberry Drill Team performs at Multicultural Night.

‘Community’ Mural

Another highlight was an interactive mural, in which students spelled out the word “community,” which was the focus of the Drill Team.

Prior to the event, school staff members had created visual displays depicting the diversity of their own families and the community. Then, during the event, students and their families were invited to create similar displays. Also, the Family Resource Center hosted a table to share information about their services.The evening ended with a dance party.

Strengthening Bonds Within the School Community

“Multicultural Night is intended to help our students and their families to feel more connected to our school community,” Ms. Horan said. “Everyone has so much fun at the event, and since it’s towards the end of the school year, it is a great way to wrap up the year together.

“Our Equity Team’s main goal is to help ensure that equity is part of everything we do, and this event is a great showcase of that.”

Well over 200 people attended the event, including students, their families, school staff, and volunteers from the University of Saint Joseph, Mayberry’s educational partner.

Ivy Horan with Kennedy Martin, her first-grade teammate and co-leader of the Equity Team

Building Confidence

“I want to thank our Drill Team teachers for believing in me and helping me perform today,” a fourth-grader said. “I never thought I could do something like this, but they told me I could.”

A fifth-grader said, “I can’t wait to do the Drill Team again next year. This was the best experience. Thank you for helping me. Tonight was so much fun. I wish every single day at school could be just like today!”

Mayberry students anticipate the arrival of the Drill Team.

Education Commissioner is 2024 Diversity Champion

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker has been honored as the 2024 Diversity Champion by the Alma Exley Scholarship Program. She was recognized for her leadership in implementing a broad array of initiatives that have significantly increased the number of persons of color in the state’s educator workforce.

She was recognized at a virtual celebration held on Zoom to introduce the 2024 Alma Exley Scholars, Andrew Amaya, a student at Central Connecticut State University, and Brianna Bobo, a student at the University of Connecticut. Read more on the News page.

Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker

Commissioner Russell-Tucker is the third Diversity Champion the program has honored. The previous honorees are State Senator Douglas McCrory, 2022, and State Representative Robert Sánchez, 2023.

A Priority Focus

In accepting the award, Commissioner Russell-Tucker congratulated Mr. Amaya and Ms. Bobo and said: “Increasing diversity in the Connecticut educator workforce is one of the pillars of our work at the Department and certainly is a priority focus for me.”

She called the scholarship program “such an important part of this work” and added, “This award highlights the memory of Alma Exley and the incredible work she did throughout her life and career and serves as a living testament to her legacy.”

Many Diversity Initiatives

The Commissioner highlighted the results of some of the many programs implemented under her leadership to diversify the educator workforce.

  • Some 175 school districts have welcomed 977 new educators from other states who are working in Connecticut because of enhanced reciprocity in certification.
  • Aspiring teachers are getting help with licensing and testing fees through the allocation of $2 million in COVID federal funding to educator-preparation programs.
  • Twenty-nine students have received scholarships in the first round of a diversity scholarship program for students from priority school districts who are enrolled in educator-preparation programs.
  • Since 2020, more than 230 aspiring educators have received financial support while being placed in public-school classrooms in the NextGen program.
  • More than 500 high school students  taking courses in the Educators Rising program to prepare them for teaching careers.

Better Academic Performance

“Why is this so important?” Commissioner Russell-Tucker asked. “We know from the research that all students—especially students of color—have better academic performance, improved test scores, higher graduation rates, and a greater sense of belonging and motivation when they are taught by educators who look like them.”

From the 2015-2016 school year to the present, educators of color have increased from 8.3 percent to 11.7 percent of the Connecticut educator workforce, which translates to more than 6,000 educators of color.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” she said, indicating that students of color account for 53 percent of the state’s student body. This is equivalent to more than 275,000 students out of a total of 512,652.”

“The need to create equity of access to a world-class educational system that supports all our learners is very clear,” the Commissioner added. “I’m so grateful for the work the Alma Exley Scholarship is doing to bring more educators of color into the pipeline and ultimately into the classroom.”


Future Teachers Step Up To Leadership

Six students have been inducted into leadership positions in the Connecticut Educators Rising program, which encourages high school students to aspire to careers in education.

Educators Rising is a “Grow Your Own” program that provides a clear educational pathway to students to increase teacher diversity and teacher quality.  

Educators from the University of Bridgeport (UB), Educators Rising, and the Connecticut State Department of Education were on hand to congratulate the future teachers.

From left, Dr. Patricia Mulcahy-Ernt, Mary Glassman, Dr. Shuana Tucker, Sinthia Sone-Moyano, Woody Exley, Sherrod Cuttino, Mimi Colón, Jacquelin Rybnick, Alivia Afable, Danyelix Echevarria-Figueroa, Isaias Rodríguez Sánchez, Dr. Danielle Wilken, Tricia Putnam, Dr. Khaled Elleithy, and Dr. Tonya Chacón.

EdRising Student Cabinet

Inducted into the Connecticut EdRising Student Cabinet in a ceremony at the University of Bridgeport were:

  • Danyelix Echevarria-Figueroa, New Britain High School, President
  • Alivia Afable, Waterbury Career Academy, Vice President of Engagement
  • Mimi Colón, New Britain High School, Vice President of Communications
  • Jacquelyn Rybnick, Stamford High School, Vice President of Service
  • Isaias Rodríguez Sánchez, New Britain High School, Representative At-Large
  • Sherrod Cuttino, Central Connecticut State University, Representative At-Large in the recently established college-level Aspiring Educators program.

Varied Responsibilities

In their positions, the students will have a variety of responsibilities in ensuring the success of the EdRising program in their schools. This will give them the opportunity to cultivate their leadership capabilities while advancing the program.

The EdRising program enables high school students to take courses related to education careers and to serve in internships in local schools. They can also earn university credit by taking courses at their schools taught by certified university teachers.

Congratulating the aspiring teachers were:

From the University of Bridgeport: Dr. Danielle Wilken, President; Dr. Khaled Elleithy, Dean, College of Engineering, Business, and Education; Dr. Patricia Mulcahy-Ernt, Director, School of Education; and Dr. Tonya Chacón, Coordinator of the Elementary Education Program.

From the Connecticut State Department of Education: Sinthia Sone-Moyano and Dr. Charles Hewes, Deputy Commissioners; Dr. Shuana Tucker, Chief Talent Officer; and Mary Glassman, Workforce Diversity and Educator Effectiveness Officer.

Also participating was Tricia Putnam, Connecticut State and Regional EdRising Coordinator for PDK International, whose mission is to eliminate the teacher shortage by supporting EdRising programs across the country.

Establishing Pathways

UB’s Dr. Mulcahy-Ernt hopes that some of the students will enroll in the educator-preparation program at the University of Bridgeport. “EdRising is having an impact by establishing pathways for future educators,” she says. “It’s introducing them to the teaching profession and enabling them to step up to leadership positions.”

Dr. Chacón notes that students can accelerate the speed of their professional journey by taking university courses while in high school. “We’re creating pathways for young people who are interested in becoming educators,” she says. “We want to foster that, and we want to nurture that. Educators Rising is the perfect way to do that. They can earn university credit at a nominal fee.”

Inspirational Program

“EdRising inspired me to become a teacher,” says Isaias Rodríguez Sánchez, a student in New Britain. “The program has helped me to develop the skills that I need to become an educator. It has helped me to strengthen my public speaking skills and my social skills. The EdRising club at school is like a family.”

EdRising has chapters in many states. In Connecticut, the program is one of many initiatives advanced by the state Department of Education to address the teacher shortage as well as the dearth of educators of color.

Nearly 500 students are participating in high schools in Ansonia, Bristol, Danbury, East Hartford, Farmington, Groton, Hamden, Hartford, Manchester, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwich, Stamford, Torrington, Waterbury, and Windsor. More than 80 percent of the participants are students of color, which is important since only 11 percent of educators in Connecticut are persons of color compared to over half of the students in public schools.