Promoting Teacher Diversity in New Jersey Classrooms

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Rowan College of Education is partnering with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) in order to promote teacher diversity in classrooms.  

According to NJ.gov (the official website for the state of New Jersey), “New Jersey students of color make up 56% of the state’s student population.”

While also according to NJ.gov, “New Jersey teachers of color make up 16% of the state’s teacher workforce.” 

Dr. Kate Kedley is an assistant professor at the College of Education at Rowan University. Their research focuses on critical literacy and education, public engagement, LGBTQ+  and young adult literature, language education, and social and educational movements in Honduras. 

“I think it’s important for all students to see people in positions of ‘power and leadership’ within classrooms that are like them and that are not like them. There’s a really important diverse set in terms of sexuality, race, ethnicity, language and gender,” Kedley said. “And so, I think one of the problems because teachers are so white, generally and typically white women, we’re seeing sort of a monolith of cultures, ideas, ways of speaking, ways of teaching, ways of communicating and I think that is detrimental to students of color for sure but it’s also detrimental to white students that don’t see diversity in the teaching course.” 

Recently Rowan University has introduced Men of Color Hope Achievers (MOCHA) thanks to a $475,000 grant from the Department of Education. The program, according to Rowan’s website, “will focus on recruiting, preparing, supporting and retaining males of color to earn certification through an alternate route program.” 

MOCHA was introduced in response to recent legislation signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. 

Over 121,000 students in New Jersey see zero teachers of their same race in schools. 

Vasiliki Ofidis, also known as Vickie, is a junior sociology and public relations major at Rowan.   

“With lack of diversity in classrooms, it affects students of color because there isn’t enough teachers of color as they are looked at as a minority group and that isn’t fair. Education should be an even playing field. There should be more teachers of color to show students, at any age, regardless of race and ethnicity, that they can become a teacher and be proud to be a teacher, regardless of where they come from,” Ofidis said. 

Rowan will annually accept 25 students into the program. 

MOCHA builds upon Rowan’s ASPIRE to Teach program which helps eligible, aspiring teachers (who have not yet completed teaching programs) earn their teaching certificates. 

But with progress comes setbacks.

In the 2019-20 school year the average salary of a New Jersey teacher could be as low as $44,000

Teachers and educators, especially from underserved communities sometimes live from paycheck to paycheck

“We can’t ask people of color such as Black men, Black women, Latina women and Latino men to come into a profession and then be like: ‘Okay but you’re going to make $35,000 a year and top out at $50,000’ or whatever. We have to be saying like– ‘This is a professional career where you can make a living,’” Kedley said.  

The MOCHA program will continue to make positive efforts, even if those steps are as simple as accepting a small group of men into a new teaching program.  

“I do believe Rowan does a great job at promoting faculty and staff diversity. Hopefully, they continue this path,” Ofidis said. 

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