Times: Seattle needs more teachers of color

Treneicia Gardner. Photo: MIKE SIEGEL / THE SEATTLE TIMES. Used with permission.

A growing number of studies are showing a link between teacher diversity and minority student performance. Yet the demographics of teachers at Seattle Public Schools is lagging far behind the demographics of the student bodies. Though only 43 percent of students at SPS are white, 79 percent of teachers are white.

To illustrate the story, the Seattle Times’ Brian Rosenthal observes a classroom at Leschi Elementary. The class’s teacher, Treneicia Gardner, was helped by a scholarship from the [Edgar] Martinez Foundation, which is focused on increasing teacher diversity:

Treneicia Gardner is counting down from five, signaling her kindergarten and first-grade students to hurry to the classroom rug for a math lesson.

Most have no problem making it. The only holdup is a line of kids hoping to grab a quick hug before bounding to their spots.

It’s a blend of control and connection even the most experienced educator might envy, and Gardner is a first-year teacher at a diverse, high-poverty school.

To be sure, her effectiveness stems from contagious energy, creative lesson planning and superhuman patience. But the 28-year-old says she has an extra advantage: Gardner, like many of her students, is African American.

“Absolutely, I feel like it makes a difference,” she said, reflecting at lunchtime on a recent school day at Seattle’s Leschi Elementary. “As a minority woman, things that I have experienced in my life are the same things they’re dealing with. It brings our relationship closer … It increases their comfort level and their confidence.”

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9 thoughts on “Times: Seattle needs more teachers of color

  1. 66% of Seattlites are white, but only 43% of SPS students are white? Man there’s a lot of white kids in private schools.

  2. A lot of people in Seattle don’t have children of school age, especially those of us who moved here after we raised our kids.

  3. Sure. But why the race difference? Are there only white Seattlites without kids, or are older?

  4. According to what is frequently written about “gentrification,” a large percentage of those who have moved into the city in recent years are white, and many people of color have moved their families out to other parts of the county. If the influx is mostly older or childless white people, that would have increased the ratio of total white people to children of color.

  5. My son tutors at Leschi, where the after-school tutors are by and large white. Step up, my black neighbors. Step up.

  6. Do you doubt it, Grumbo? I have heard the same thing about Madrona Elementary. Parental involvement is crucial in any elementary school. Minority families likely have bigger challenges making ends meet and consequently less time to involve themselves in their kid’s schools. It’s not rocket science.

  7. Not really. That would keep white children constant, and decrease the population of minority children (since they’re moving out of town with their families).

  8. No doubt at all. Just that typically such a suggestion is met with denial and a verbal assault against the messenger. Followed by suggestions that we have all hear the message before, there are lots of excuses for it, and you must have a racist motive for saying so. Wondering how you will get out of this loop and keep from being censored. Just curious.