Where I Lead: Diversity in Education

 

What inspired you to become an educator?

I first told my mother I wanted to be a teacher sometime around eighth grade. I have always loved to learn and did my best to excel in school. I think I have always thought teaching to be a noble profession and decided that I could make the greatest impact as an educator. Now, I am inspired by my amazing students who have the same professional goals. They teach me just as much as I teach them.

What did you gain from the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program and the Governor’s Teaching Fellows program in 2017?

The Fulbright-Hays summer program provided me the opportunity to work with other educators from around the country in learning more about Chile, including its culture, sociopolitical issues, and education system. It was an honor to have been selected for the opportunity and a delight to explore Chile with new friends and colleagues. The Governor’s Teaching Fellows program was a brief yet impactful experience to learn more high-impact teaching practices, technological tools, and assessment strategies for use in the university classroom.

How have partnerships with area schools helped UNG prepare more students of color to be teachers?

Bio

Dr. Lauren Johnson, department head for the Department of Culture, Language and Leadership in the College of Education and associate professor of teacher education at UNG, has worked alongside her colleagues in the College of Education on UNG’s partnership with Gainesville and Hall County schools to train the next generation of diverse teachers.

Through our efforts to recruit and train successful graduates of Hall County high schools and current Gainesville City paraprofessionals, we have hopefully provided necessary support for students who might otherwise be unable to achieve their goals of becoming teachers. This partnership provides financial assistance in addition to mentorship, advisement, and social activities that we plan to help the cohort bond and offer support. Through these programs, we are encouraging more students of color to become teachers with the eventual goal of
producing highly effective educators who will go on to make positive contributions in their local communities. Our graduates will have jobs waiting for them when they complete their degrees.

Why is it important to have teachers who are people of color?

Representation matters. Research shows that students respond well to teachers who share their cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds. Students of color are no longer a minority in this country and, therefore, their teachers should be more representative of their communities. This is clear when we consider the educational experiences of non-native English speakers in U.S. schools; our increasingly diverse population necessitates that teachers effectively communicate with students and parents in their own languages. The best way to present the range of educational opportunities and career paths available to young people of color is to provide them examples in their schools of all that they can achieve.