Mortar and diploma

Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline

Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy Introduces High School Students to Teaching Careers

Montclair State is using a “Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline” grant from the New Jersey Department of Education to develop programs that recruit, prepare, support and place a diverse pool of teaching candidates in New Jersey schools.

At East Side and University high schools, a Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy led by Associate Professor Mayida Zaal, embeds racial equity and social justice, along with opportunities to take college-level courses, in a four-year track intended to lead to teaching careers.

The first cohort of students, as ninth graders last year, attended a special event in early 2020 with Bettina Love, an author and educational scholar who challenged students to reflect on what it means to teach for social justice.

“I want to have a conversation with future teachers and teachers in the classroom right now about teaching black and brown children,” Love said. “I want to argue that you can’t teach us if you don’t know our culture … how dynamic our culture is, how rich our culture is. You can’t teach us if you don’t know us.”

During the 2020-2021 academic year, the focus is on inspiring the students to be agents of positive change in their school and communities, curriculum based on the youth participatory action research model, Zaal says.

By the time these students are in 11th grade, they will be given the opportunity to take college-level courses, sponsored by the Newark Board of Education, which will apply toward a degree at Montclair State.

The hope is that after receiving their teacher certifications, they will begin teaching careers supported by a collaborative induction plan in Newark Public Schools. Researchers will track their progression, Zaal says.

“What we’re trying to do is open our students’ eyes to understanding the ways in which they learn themselves and the ways in which the students around them learn,” says Jennifer Robinson, executive director of the Center of Pedagogy. “We want them to see that our society isn’t quite as democratic as we would want it to be, and that they as teachers have the opportunity, if they become teachers, to actually make a difference in the world they will live in, and particularly for the students they will eventually teach.”

The Teacher Academy is being presented in collaboration with Newark Public Schools and the American Federation of Teachers.

Video by Christodoulos Apostolou

Story by Marilyn Lehren