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Involved students weigh in on impact of minority teachers

Zoe Tu
Sophomore Savneet Dulay (right) discusses the lack of minority teachers with sophomore Akshaya Lingala (left) on Feb 16th, 2023. “I think non-ethnic teachers just need to be more sensitive towards some students,” said Dulay.

February is Ethnic Equality Month. 

With this month as a backdrop, sophomore Savneet Dulay said having a diverse teaching staff is important.

“I don’t think that there is a huge difference overall if a white teacher is teaching versus a minority teacher,” Dulay said. “However, I think that there is an effect towards minority students. They are seeing representation of their culture and ethnicity teaching them.” 

For his part, junior Sai Shritan Gudepate CHS does not have a diverse enough staff. 

“I do not think it has a diverse enough staff because from what I have seen, most of the teachers are not minorities,” Gudepate said. “Perhaps one of the factors of this is that Carmel and surrounding cities simply do not have a diverse enough population. However, having a minority teacher can allow students to connect more with their teachers because of similar experiences that they have been in instead of a white teacher. I think that the (minority) teacher will be able to empathize more with them and therefore connect.”

Gudepate’s observations are not unwarranted. According to CHS’ website, of the 694 permanent staff members at the school, only a small portion of these staff members come from a minority background. What is more, according to a Pew Research Center Study done in December of 2021, 79% of public school teachers identify as white. 

Riley Laferriere

Terri Roberts-Leonard, CCS equity and inclusion officer, said she is trying to improve the entire district’s diversity when it comes to teachers. 

“We are undergoing several initiatives in an effort to increase the diversity amongst staff,” Roberts-Leonard said. “We are hosting the Inaugural Diversity Teacher Recruitment Fair on March 2. We are in contact with various professional organizations with connections to the field. Those are just a few examples of what we are trying to accomplish.”

Despite those efforts, Gudepate said it will be difficult for Carmel to accomplish.

“It’s going to be hard, because of the reasons I think play into this, which include just not having a diverse population, trying to create a diverse staff will be incredibly difficult,” he said. 

But Dulay said it is still worth a try because, she said, minority teachers can help inspire minority students.

“Overall, if there is a person who is from a minority in any career setting, it helps students understand that they can also do it. A lot of people who do not see people of their culture during specific jobs, make it feel like you can’t pursue that field,” she said.

Roberts-Leonard said she agreed with Dulay.

“It is important to note that teachers from diverse backgrounds are highly skilled and educated as well,” she said. “Too often individuals make the false assumption that looking to expand diversity means that there will be a lack of or a downshift in quality, but that is not true at all. CCS has always aimed to hire the best of the best and that will continue.” 

However, Dulay said non-ethnic teachers should be more sensitive to minority students’ backgrounds.

She said, “I remember one time during my freshman year, I had a teacher who said a word that was incredibly insensitive towards some students. If teachers can move away from that it would be the best.”

Roberts-Leonard said that minority teachers do not just impact minority students.

“It is important to note that research shows that all students benefit from having exposure to diverse teachers. Research shows that teachers of color help close achievement gaps for students of color and are highly rated by students of all races,” she said. “A fact that is all the more relevant in light of persistent gaps between students of color and students from low-income families and their peers who are white or from more affluent families.”

Sophomore Savneet Dulay discusses the lack of minority teachers with sophomore Akshaya Lingala on Feb 16th, 2023. Terri Roberts-Leonard, CCS equity and inclusion officer, said exposure to diverse teachers benefit students of any background. (Zoe Tu)

Dulay said that perhaps if teachers had more diversity training, conditions could improve.

“I think that teachers just need to be able to understand other people’s background and culture and diversity training can certainly help with that,” she said.

However, Roberts-Leonard said that CCS is far from reaching what she would consider a diverse staff for a number of reasons, but more diversity is still beneficial.

“Unfortunately, although more teachers of color are being recruited across the nation, the pace of increase is slow and attrition rates are high, leaving growing gaps between the demand for such teachers and the supply. It is important to note that diversity is broader than just race. We want a diverse staff across the board.  We aim to refine our systemic approach to attracting and retaining a highly talented, diverse staff population.” she said. 

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