How Teachers of Color Can Make a Difference in the Classroom and Beyond

February 2019
teacher and a student

With growing evidence that educator diversity may lead to more positive outcomes for all students, demand is increasing for teachers of color—particularly bilingual teachers of color in areas with large numbers of linguistically diverse students.

Here are a few more reasons why it is critical that districts and schools strive to recruit and hire teachers of color:

It’s the Right Thing To Do

Nationally, teachers tend to be white and female (roughly 80 and 77 percent, respectively). Schools should be representative of everyone, and when a teaching staff does not reflect the diversity of a school community, it points to a systemic inequity that needs to be addressed.

Diversity Benefits Students

Research suggests that students of color who have at least one teacher of color may do better on tests and be less likely to have disciplinary issues. Research also suggests that white students show improved problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity when they have diverse teachers. An article in Scientific American sums it up this way: “Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.”

It Can Build Community Ties and Foster a Sense of Belonging

Communities of color often feel alienated from their school because they don’t see themselves represented. Along those lines, for all students to have an equitable chance to succeed, schools must involve their communities. One approach is to broaden recruitment efforts and hire community members to increase the diversity of the educator workforce. In doing so, schools and districts can develop relationships with diverse communities—which can have positive long-term impacts.

“It’s really important that students have people who reflect back to them their language, their culture, their ethnicity, their religion. It doesn’t mean all the people in their lives have to do that mirroring, but they should have some. And we know that in the teaching profession, there really are not enough mirrors.” —Sarah Leibel, master teacher in residence in the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program

However, simply recruiting and hiring more teachers of color is not enough; we need significant systemic and cultural changes to retain teachers of color and encourage students of color to become teachers.

It’s difficult, uncomfortable work—and it’s work we should pursue.