Sacha Kelly: Teacher Diversity Is Essential

Sacha Kelly shares her thoughts on the need for greater diversity in the teaching profession. Ms. Kelly, honored at a reception on May 20, 2009, has a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College and a master’s degree from the University of Saint Joseph. She began her career as a mathematics teacher at Big Picture High School, Bloomfield, Conn. Posted June 25, 2009.

In order for the Connecticut public schools to be truly successful, it is critical that there are more talented teachers and school leaders of color, reflecting the diversity of the student population. Alma Exley’s scholarship program is helping to meet that essential need.

Would you believe that in my 28 years of education, attending public schools in New York City and private colleges in Connecticut, I have never been in a math or science class taught by a woman of color?!

When I work in schools today, I usually ask the students whether they have had women of color as math or science teachers. Sadly, most respond they have not. This unfortunate and commonplace absence of female teachers of color in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects fails to reflect the diversity of public-school students, and does a disservice to students of all backgrounds.

Happily, I know the presence of a mentor teacher can have a lasting impact. In high school, an African-American female teacher became my mentor. Although I never took a class with her, she showed me new possibilities for my future that I had not previously considered. I wish to thank her and the other extraordinary teachers who have had a positive impact in my life. As a result of being reached through their dedication to educate, I decided to teach to ‘pay it forward’ and inspire my students.

As an African-American woman with secondary licensure to teach high school mathematics, I am motivated to show diverse students a new image for math teachers and to encourage them to excel in STEM subjects and careers.

This spring I had the opportunity to teach geometry and algebra II as a student-teacher at Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford. Then I was also privileged to be a part of the GO-GIRL program at Saint Joseph College, a STEM enrichment program for 7th grade girls. I’m sure the students I reached in these experiences didn’t need a woman of color to learn, but I think my teaching presence left a positive impression that they could be successful scholars. The successes from these two recent teaching experiences have further reinforced my passion to teach and my commitment to inspire students, especially those of diverse backgrounds.