'Teachers need to mirror the student population.'
When Margarita Bianco was getting ready to apply to colleges, her guidance counselor told her she "wasn’t college material."
His remark almost put a huge damper on Bianco's plans for her future.
"I almost listened to him, thinking he knew more than I did," she recalls.
Thankfully, however, she refused to be knocked down by his defeating words. She applied to college anyway and ended up getting into William Paterson University.
Margarita Bianco. Photo via XQ.
"The first thing I did with my acceptance letter was place that letter on [my guidance counselor's] desk," Bianco says.
She wanted him to know how wrong he was about her but also that, as an educator, his words have power and can have detrimental effects on students.
It's unclear whether the counselor's opinion of Bianco was influenced by racial prejudice, but several other similar school experiences led her to assume it played a part.
She made it her mission to "flip the script" and do something about the lack of diversity among public school teachers.
[rebelmouse-image 19529985 dam="1" original_size="1066x800" caption="Pathways2Teaching student working with a younger student. Image via Pathways2Teaching, used with permission." expand=1]Pathways2Teaching student working with a younger student. Image via Pathways2Teaching, used with permission.
She started a program called Pathways2Teaching, which was designed to encourage high school students, especially students of color, to pursue a teaching career.
"Teachers need to mirror the student population," Bianco declares.
83% of teachers in America are white, and 75% are women. Meanwhile, minorities make up the majority of public school students. That doesn't exactly help them embrace their cultures and backgrounds.
Despite the current disparity, studies have found that students, no matter their race, generally prefer to have teachers of color.
[rebelmouse-image 19529986 dam="1" original_size="1100x679" caption="A male student teacher working with kids. Image via Pathways2Teaching, used with permission." expand=1]A male student teacher working with kids. Image via Pathways2Teaching, used with permission.
What's more, students of color tend to perform better academically when they have a teacher of color. The theory behind this is that students are more likely to connect with teachers who are sensitive to their cultural needs.
Such role models were sorely lacking in Bianco's adolescence, which is why she was inspired to become a teacher in the first place.
Now in its eighth year, Pathways2Teaching is well on its way to becoming an academic model for the entire country.
A teacher reads to students. Photo via XQ.
Similar to Grow Your Own Teachers, Pathways is helping set a precedent for the kind of diversity all schools should be advocating for. By fostering local prospective teachers of color, they're not only encouraging educator diversity, they're showing students how valuable people of color are to the academic community.
In a country that's in desperate need of some new role models, there couldn't be a better time for a program like this to flourish.
Learn more at XQSuperSchool.org.
Learn more about Pathways and Bianco's story here: