Making an Impact in DCPS and Beyond
The following blog was written by DCPS teacher Jonte Lee. Mr. Lee teaches at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in the District of Columbia and brought a team of fellow educators to the 2017 Teacher Leadership Summit sponsored by Shell Oil Company and hosted at Howard University in February. The summit guided teams in creating logic models for attracting, retaining, and developing a diverse STEM teaching workforce. The SSEC would like to thank Mr. Lee for sharing his reflections on this program's impact.
It was the spring of 2001. I was in Dr. Echoles’ college Educational Psychology course. During her lecture, Dr. Echoles mentioned her father has a PhD and her sister has a medical degree. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe it. An African American family with multiple advanced degrees. I’d never encountered such an individual before. It was motivating and inspiring. Being an African American male, I searched for teachers that looked like me, but unfortunately, I had very few from preschool through graduate school. I only had two African American male teachers and two STEM teachers of color. My experience with Dr. Echoles taught me that African Americans with advanced degrees exist in great numbers, and I need to serve as a mentor for the next generation of students of color.
The Leadership Summit goal is to recruit, retain, and train STEM teachers of color. This work is incredibly important to me because of my experience with Dr. Echoles. Having more STEM teachers of color will show students of color that it is possible to obtain advanced degrees, and we are not limited to the stereotypical careers as seen on TV and the movie screen. My team was composed of women and men of color, and each team member has taught or is teaching in the classroom. There were representatives from District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS; teacher and principal), the Office of State Superintendent of Education, and District of Columbia Public Schools central office.
Our team will focus on training STEM teachers of color. It is our hypothesis that if we increase training, we will see a decrease in the attrition rate of STEM teachers of color in DCPS. Our plan is to have cohorts of new teachers, new to the District and to teaching and veteran teachers. Each cohort of teachers will also serve as a supportive network. We are workshopping what training would look like.
Decreasing teacher attrition will have a positive impact on students’ performance. Students will have an opportunity to have a longer relationship with a STEM teacher of color and become mentees. Those two things are difficult to accomplish when the average teacher of color stays in the industry for less than 5 years. By no means is increasing teacher retention the golden ticket to increasing students of color in STEM fields, but this will help solve one piece of the puzzle. No student of color should reach college and not realize it is possible to obtain an advanced degree.