The Charlottesville and Albemarle Counties of Virginia have one Black teacher for every 122 students. One nonprofit is seeking to change that.
The African-American Teaching Fellows Program works to develop young professionals to be leaders in and out of the classroom. Through their extensive program, young educators enter public schools throughout the state of Virginia with the tools they need to succeed and answer the need for Black faces in learning environments.
“Our mission is to impact the lives of children in this community through diversifying the local teaching force and we do that through supporting and developing African-American educators,” AATF Director Tamara Dias.
Dias is a former fellow who knows the struggle of being a public school teacher. Under her leadership, the program takes in educators during their junior year of college and guides them while offering emotional and financial support.
“It’s not unusual to find a teacher who works two or three jobs or has a part-time job that they work after school or on the weekends to make ends meet,” she said.
“We are trying to remove a financial barrier, an economic barrier that would keep people from becoming classroom educators. Educators are really pouring so much into students and really building this next generation."
In addition to support, AATF builds a community of educators who can learn from each other and offer encouragement when needed. While there is no shortage of Black kids seeking a quality education, there is a shortage of Black teachers that are able to build a supportive community. From 1987 to 2015, the percentage of Black teachers in public schools dropped from 8.2% to 6.7%. Moreover, Black male teachers make up only 2% of the public school teaching population today. With the work that AATF does, those numbers will hopefully improve in years to come.
“To be someone who wants to be a Black teacher, AATF (African American Teaching Fellows Program) gives you a community of people who understand what it’s like to be a teacher,” former AATF Fellow Destinie Thomas said.
“We are putting highly qualified Black teachers in classrooms for Black students because we know Black students benefit from seeing teachers who look like them."
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