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.
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.
“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.