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With new classes, district aims to ‘grow its own’ future teachers

Talking to a group of Burnsville High School juniors – most of whom were students of color – District 191 Systems Improvement and Student Achievement (SISA) coordinators Frannie Becquer and Jeff Pope asked how many of their teachers in the last 11 years looked like them. A few students could say they’d had one teacher of color. Most said none.

“When you don’t see yourself in a career, research shows you’re less likely to think that’s an option for you,” said Pope.

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District 191 is not alone in having a teaching staff that doesn’t look like its student population. Across Minnesota, only 4 percent of teachers are people of color, while 31 percent of students are.

career fields guideA new partnership with Normandale Community College is designed to address that disparity and open the teaching pathway to more students of color. Next fall, Burnsville High School seniors will be able to take two education courses and earn seven college credits through Normandale, all without leaving the high school.

The courses, “Introduction to Education” and “Multicultural Education and Human Relations in School,” are being made possible thanks in part to a “Grow Your Own” grant from the Minnesota Department of Education. Although the school is actively recruiting students of color to participate, the classes are open to any senior who meets academic requirements or gets a recommendation from a teacher.

"These classes will give students a jump start, both in terms of earning college credit and in having a better idea of what's involved in education and whether it's a good fit for them," Pope said.

The approach aligns with Burnsville’s Pathways model, which helps students think about and prepare for their futures by providing real-world opportunities right in the school, many of which lead to professional certifications or college credit.

The benefits of the program, though, are not just for current students who might go on to become teachers. Research shows that a more diverse teaching corps supports the academic success of students of color. A recent study reported that having just one black male teacher in elementary school can make make a dramatic difference for black male students, increasing their chances of graduating high school and the likelihood that they will aspire to attend a four-year college.

“The Grow Your Own grant is an important tool for addressing Minnesota’s K-12 teacher shortage,” said Robb Lowe, coordinator of dual enrollment at Normandale Community College. “We’re fortunate to be able to work with Burnsville High School on this important initiative.”

Registration for these and other classes is going on now. Learn more about Pathways at Burnsville High School at www.isd191.org/pathways.