The following is an op-ed written by Kati Cabral, middle school science teacher and Summer Search Boston alumna. It was originally published in the Chelsea Record, 12/23/21. Kati also shared via LinkedIn.
Where Are All The Teachers of Color?
Before I start my day at Excel Academy Chelsea at 7:30 AM, I am welcomed by the brisk wind
and rays of sunshine.
As I enter the school building, a line of flags hangs from the ceiling reminding me of the myriad of countries our students come from: Haiti, El Salvador, to Honduras. My student’s Black and brown faces welcome me eagerly (and some apathetically) to read our quote of the day and engage in Science class. I ended the day winded but reassured that I made it through another day of teaching as one of the few
educators of color within my school and district.
As a student within Chelsea Public Schools, I rarely saw educators of color, and much less ones that came from the same community as me. This lack of representation instilled a narrative that people of color did not belong in positions of power within education.
Furthermore, my experience is not singular as only 8% of all educators in Massachusetts identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or Asian during the 2020-21 school year. It was not until I studied abroad (and 15 years of schooling) that I had two professors of color from Puerto Rico and Bolivia that could speak the same language as my mother. It took traveling halfway across the world to experience this but I felt seen and validated by my
Studies show that there is an improvement in the academic performance and social-emotional learning of students when taught by educators
of color, yet state and school leaders fail to provide an inclusive and supportive environment for educators of color.
We start to uncover the answer to the question: Where are all the teachers
Teachers of color are leaving the classroom at a higher rate than their white counterparts due to the insufficient support from state, school, and local leaders.
To our state education leaders, the data shows we need to remove the initial barriers, such as the teaching licensure process and the cost of state exams, including MTELs, to increase the number of applicants of color within the teaching profession.
To our school committees, we need to create a pipeline of homegrown educators to serve as mirrors and windows for our students.
To our school leaders, educators of color need more professional autonomy including their own differentiated professional development opportunities, input on the teacher schedule and curricular decisions.
Each day I enter the classroom, I aspire to be the leader, teacher and mentor that I always wanted growing up: one that is empathetic, vulnerable, and grounded in self-improvement. I am reminded of the gap that I am filling through my ability to communicate with my student’s parents in their native language to relay areas of growth and successes, to develop a deep connection with my students through our shared experiences and to build
solidarity with my fellow educators of color.
Finally, to our teachers of color, although you may not see the impact of your presence while you are in the classroom, know that you are needed and you are making a lasting influence on those around you.
UPDATE (2/15/22): Kati was just elected to Chelsea's School Committee!
"Being part of the Chelsea public schools has distilled the lessons of empathy, generosity, and service to others, and that is exactly why I am interested in this position,” said Cabral. “As a recent graduate, I think I bring a fresh and unique perspective."