A new teacher development grant program aimed at increasing the number of Black educators in the state of Colorado is offering Black students pursuing a career in education a $20,000 salary bonus and a full-funded master’s degree.
Just 2 percent of teachers in Colorado are Black, according to the state Department of Education, but a grant program from the Colorado-based Sachs Foundation aims to change that by recruiting and retaining Black educators from Colorado College.
The $575,000 grant will offer students at the college financial support as they enter the teaching profession.
“What we are doing is supplementing their salary for the first three years that they are teaching through a stipend which is a $10,000 stipend. We’re also recruiting them to be mentors in our elevator program which is a paid mentorship program which will fund them around another $10,000,” Ben Ralston, president of the Sachs Foundation, explained to Denver TV station KUSA.
The program will also pay for the new teachers’ professional development and classroom supplies.
Students begin gaining classroom experience as undergraduates through internships and fellowships. The program will then award full scholarships to two students seeking master’s degrees in education.
Participating Black undergraduate students at Colorado College can receive $1,000 each semester for a five- to 10-hour-per-week internship with K-12-related organization, including a school, nonprofit or community center.
Several $5,000 summer fellowships are also available and will support students working with local summer camps or schools.
Students don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in education, Ralston told the TV station. “One of the things we’re hoping for is to identify students who may have declared a major outside of education but would still consider going into education.”
Isabella Hageman, a 19-year-old Colorado College freshman who did not have a Black teacher until she attended university, was one of the new program’s first applicants.
“When students have teachers of color that they can connect with because they might come from the same backgrounds or they’re into the same things or they just have similar cultures, the students typically do better,” Hageman, who will intern at a Colorado Springs elementary school this year, said to KUSA.
While the program will start at Colorado College, the plan is to expand to other universities in the state. It is set to kick off this semester.
“I want to be able to connect on a deeper level with other students of color and be more culturally aware and sensitive,” Hageman, who grew up in South Dakota, told The Denver Post. “I know when I was young, teachers would always come up to me and touch my hair and things like that. It would also be great to include more people of color in lesson plans to show representation that way. I mostly only remember learning about white people when I was in school.”
Ralston added that Black students often choose majors other than education because other careers offer higher pay that can help offset student debt.
“They’re trying to piece together scholarships, loans, financial aid, and because of that they’re going into business or engineering because if they’re going to take on the financial commitment of college, they’re going to want to be paid at a higher level to make it worth their time,” Ralston said to the Post.
Through the stipends offered to participants throughout their first few years of teaching, the program hopes to retain Black teachers by tackling the issue of high teacher turnover that plagues novice educators in their first years in the classroom.
A 2018 study by Johns Hopkins and American University found that Black students who had a Black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to attend college, while Black students who had two Black teachers by grade three were 32 percent more likely to pursue higher education.
Black boys from “very low-income” families were 39 percent less likely to drop out of high school if they had been taught by one Black teacher in elementary school.