Teacher’s Appreciation Week is May 8 – May 12!

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to celebrate and recognize those hard-working educators and the impact they’ve made on so many lives. 

Teachers play an immensely important role in the development of a student as their guidance can make a lasting difference in a student’s life. 

While we recognize teachers and their hard work and dedication, we also must acknowledge the national shortage of teachers.  

A recent study found that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the preexisting, long-standing teacher shortage. According to the study, the shortage is not a function of an inadequate number of qualified teachers in the U.S. economy, but, there are just too few qualified teachers willing to work at current compensation levels given the increasingly stressful environment facing teachers. 

As a result, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are playing a significant role to overcome this national teacher shortage. 

According to the Associated Press, although only 7% of all teachers nationwide are Black, half are graduates of an HBCU. 

Former teacher Lavar Edmonds recently completed a study that found Black students performed better in math when they were taught by HBCU graduates. Edmonds’ study showed both Black and white HBCU-trained teachers are more effective with Black students.

This research suggests that the training received at HBCUs contributes to what makes an effective teacher. 

“If you’re on an HBCU campus, there’s a particular potential for a wealth of knowledge, you can sort of learn and absorb when you’re in a community, a climate that is made for and by Black students and Black professors,” said Edmonds.

MiKaila White, a recent Tennesee State University graduate and early education major said her HBCU taught her how to form connections with many types of people—a skill that has allowed her to pour into her first-grade classroom. “I want my students to know that they are valued and loved for who they are,” she said. “That they don’t have to be perfect, that they don’t have to toughen up, that they don’t have to hide their vulnerability. That they can be curious, creative, and compassionate human beings no matter what the world tells them.” 

White said that she wants to be a role model for her students and the “light” that she needed as a child. “I want to show children who look like me that anything is possible, that they can achieve greatness, that their dreams are within reach,” the TSU alum proclaimed. 

Black students may benefit from learning from Black teachers as research has shown that when students are taught by teachers who share their racial or ethnic background, they are more likely to achieve academic success.

Aliya Rashid-Austin, an Alabama A&M University alum and a special education teacher with over 20 years of experience recalled only having one Black teacher while growing up in Seattle and not experiencing another until she attended her HBCU. She knows firsthand the importance of Black students experiencing learning from a Black teacher. She says Black teachers may offer black student’s their “experience, love, support,” and are often able to relate to them on a deeper level. “Who else can share and tell you about the experience of being Black, both positive and negative, more than a Black teacher?” Rashid-Austin said. 

The Biden Administration says HBCUs play a role in building a more diverse teaching workforce. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education announced $18 million in awards for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. These grants will increase high-quality teacher preparation programs for teachers of color, strengthen diversity in the teacher pipeline, and address teacher shortages.

As we ring in graduation season, we ring in a new class of HBCU educators ready to shape and inspire the next generation.