In Pennsylvania, 37% of K-12 learners are students of color. Yet educators of color only represent 7% of the K-12 workforce. In an effort to be one among many voices seeking to change these stats, the I Reach, I Teach: Conversations with Educators of Color video series seeks to elevate the voices of educators of color in PA to highlight the incredible impact that representation has on teaching and learning.
Dr. Tamara Allen-Thomas, Superintendent
As Superintendent of Clairton City School District, Dr. Tamara Allen-Thomas believes it’s her job to ensure “every student is given the opportunity to reach their highest potential.” She’s thrived in education because “it’s about growth and change—it’s like planting a seed and seeing it sprout and flower.”
Eric Harper, Elementary School Principal
Although careers in education may never lead to monetary riches, they bring their own rewards, said Eric Harper, Principal of Duquesne Elementary School. “Changing lives is priceless—that’s where the real riches come in.”
Christyn Coles, Literacy Coach
Christyn Coles, a Literacy Coach at Woodland Hills High School, encourages students of color to consider education as a career for multiple reasons. She sees a need for representation in the field and believes education “is a special occupation—it’s not just a job, it’s not just work, it’s a calling.”
Dr. Chuck Herring, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dr. Chuck Herring, South Fayette Township School District’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, was fortunate to go to schools where Black educators were the norm. Consequently, most of his peers went to the top of their fields after graduating, he said, adding, “if you can see it, you can believe it and you can do it.”
Tameka Akins, Special Education Teacher
For Tameka Akins, a Special Education teacher, “an aha moment” in Barrett Elementary School’s cafeteria underscored the importance of people of color seeking education careers. As she helped kindergartners find seats for lunch, the realization hit home when a little boy shouted in surprise, “you look like me!”
Carlton Heywood, Librarian
A 30+ year veteran of education, Carlton Heywood, who recently retired as a teacher and librarian at Pittsburgh Brashear High School, said the thing he’s liked most about his job has been “being able to set goals and have students achieve those goals and even surpass their expectations and the expectations of everyone else. It’s a beautiful feeling–to me, that’s the joy of teaching.”
Ebony Bowden, English Teacher
For Ebony Bowden, a 9th grade English teacher at Steel Valley High School, one of the most gratifying aspects of her job is “forging relationships with students and seeing them mature and grow…in intellect as well as socially and emotionally.”
Brandy Daye, Elementary Principal
Three Black educators—an elementary school principal, a 5th grade teacher, and a high school guidance counselor had a tremendous impact on Brandy Daye, Principal at McKeesport Area School District’s United at Twin Rivers Elementary School. “Without them, I don’t know if I’d have become a teacher.”
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