On teacher diversity, Dulaney has a long way to go

Lori Ackerman, Staff Writer

According to US News & World Report, 51% of students at Dulaney are people of color. So why are there only a handful of teachers of color on the staff? 

The answer, according vice principal LaTonya Wallace, is multifaceted. There is a national shortage of teachers and few new teachers entering the field. Wallace identifies a lack of outreach, noting that when she was a student, there were programs in predominantly non-white schools for students to develop their interest in teaching.

“That grassroots program is gone,” Wallace said.

BCPS also has a problem with teacher retention, especially for teachers of color. Wallace identified a trend where male teachers of color are called-upon to be disciplinarians, rising up the ranks to become administrators and leaving classrooms devoid of strong teachers from diverse backgrounds.

BCPS is making an effort to recruit non-white teachers, especially from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). But given the almost homogeneous racial makeup of Dulaney’s teachers, this is not enough. According to Wallace, diversity in the teaching staff has become less of a priority within the culture. 

“There’s blatant racism everywhere…That’s trickling down into our schools,” Wallace said.

Racial diversity among teachers benefits students of color by increasing graduation rates. A study by Professor Seth Gershenson of American University found that if a Black student has a Black teacher during their time in elementary school, it increases the probability of them graduating high school and aspiring to college. When this diversity doesn’t exist, Dulaney students of color feel unseen and less comfortable sharing their voices.

“It does impact my performance in school. I feel like if I had more teachers of color, teachers who looked like me, I feel like I might be more comfortable, might be more involved,” Layeska Prado, an officer in Dulaney’s Black Student Union (BSU) said.

Even with a high student diversity, Dulaney still has a plurality of white students. When white students are racist, white teachers may lack the cultural competency to effectively clamp down on racism.

“Having teachers that are also white and then when something racist happens and the teachers just let it go…It makes [the students] think it’s okay,” said Takara Wilson, who is co-president of the Asian Cultural Association (ACA) and a staff writer for The Griffin.

A lack of teacher diversity also leads to cultural differences that make it difficult for students of color to feel welcome in their school environment.

“I felt awkward around white teachers because of my accent…they wouldn’t be able to understand me, so I would suppress myself and never talk in class,” Sania Kala, an officer with the ACA, said.

The ability to increase teacher diversity is outside of Dulaney’s control since it is the county that hires new teachers. Even change on the county level would take effort, especially if the teacher shortage continues. Interviewees agreed that the priority should be for current teachers to step-up to create nurturing, safe and intellectually-stimulating spaces for their students of color. Carmen Nicole, the president of the BSU, highlighted that teachers have the responsibility to be trusted advocates for their students of color so that those students have people they can go to when they need support. Wallace echoed a similar sentiment, highlighting the role that the administration needs to play to achieve equity.

“We have to equip our teachers so they make sure students feel seen, heard, respected, and feel they can trust their teacher so they can meet with success,” Wallace said. 

Students are the future. All levels of teaching and administration are responsible for creating an environment that ensures that the future they build includes students of color.