At the start of one semester, Leilani Gomez, a high school senior in Aurora, was shocked when her white teacher introduced herself.
“She told us we had to respect her, because we were receiving an opportunity to learn from her, and said a lot of students ‘like us’ don’t have that opportunity,” Gomez recalled. “I think she made it obvious that she thought she was better than us.”
Students stopped listening to her. Many didn’t show up to class. Students complained to school leadership, and eventually the teacher was gone.
Instead, Gomez said, she wishes she would have had more opportunities to learn from teachers of color. In four years of high school, she recalls having just two teachers of color.
“It was cool,” Gomez said. “It kind of felt like we had a space to talk to each other about anything. She was willing to be like ‘oh I know what you mean.’ It was almost a sense of comfort.”
Experiences like that are one reason educators of color in some of Colorado’s largest districts have called on officials to do more to diversify school staff.
But Colorado’s teachers largely don’t look like the students they serve and the gap has mostly stayed the same for five years. District policies don’t easily translate to practice in part because hiring decisions are left up to principals, and educators of color have higher attrition rates.
Read more at Chalkbeat.org.
Chalkbeat Colorado is a nonprofit news organization covering education issues. For more, visit chalkbeat.org/co.
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