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Why we need Black teachers

Illustration of a black teacher with students in a circle
Illustration: mentalmind / Shutterstock

Why we need Black teachers

Travis Bristol, MA '04, talks about what it takes for schools to hire and retain teachers of color.

An overwhelming majority of K-12 public school teachers in the United States are white, even as students of color are expected to make up 56 percent of the nation’s student population by 2024, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Education on the state of racial diversity in the educator workforce.

Travis Bristol, MA ’04, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a graduate of the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), says that having teachers of color matter—for all students, not just those who are Black or Latinx.

On this episode of School’s In, Bristol joins Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the importance of hiring and retaining more Black teachers and some of the history of policies that have displaced them. 

Bristol also discussed his work on NYC Men Teach, an initiative to recruit and retain men of color as teachers in New York by providing mentoring, professional development and networking services. “I’ve been studying that initiative for three years,” says Bristol, “and we’ve seen a slight uptick in the men of color in that district—not only from recruitment but also from attending to the professional learning and social-emotional experiences of these teachers.” 

Many school districts are making “earnest attempts” to recruit teachers of color, he says. But even with a mandate from the school district, the trend of hiring white teachers often continues due to the failure of hiring committee members to overcome their own bias.

Teacher preparation programs can have an impact by addressing implicit bias and the curriculum students are taught regardless of an individual teacher’s background, says Bristol.

“If you can prepare a Black teacher to teach a Eurocentric curriculum, then you can prepare a white teacher to teach an anti-racist curriculum.”

You can listen to School's In on SiriusXM, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Soundcloud.

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