NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 22, 2022) –The Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance (TECA) and Teach Plus today announced the launch of the Ascension Project, a new leadership development and high-quality mentorship program for junior, senior, and graduate students of color who are candidates at education prep programs in middle Tennessee. The program, composed of mentors who are all current classroom teachers of color and their mentees, will focus on racial identity development, education policy, advocacy strategies, resume development, and networking for career advancement.
“Our future teachers of color are not being prepared for the challenges that exist when they enter the profession. Racial isolation, being a disciplinarian, a school-wide translator, or accessing leadership opportunities, are challenges that teachers of color continually face,” said Dr. Diarese George, executive director for the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance. “It’s important that we prepare and provide support for candidates of color training to become teachers prior to them transitioning into the profession so that they may be better prepared and can be retained longer.”
“We’re excited to embark on this work in partnership with TECA," said Dr. Michael Savoy, Teach Plus Vice President of Programs. “Teach Plus is focused on ways to attract and retain talented teachers of color in the classroom. With the dearth of teachers of color in the profession, it is more important than ever to build the skills of incoming teachers of color to be leaders in their school community and advocates for themselves and their students of color. It is very important to support them as they learn and grow as professionals.”
Sixty percent of early-career educators of color leave the profession during the first three years. Lack of access to leadership opportunities is one of the leading causes for high attrition among educators of color in Tennessee. The Ascension Project underscores the urgent need to prepare candidates of color for the realities and challenges of being a teacher of color so that they may be retained longer in the profession, and ascend to higher heights in their careers. As part of the program, Teach Plus will develop the leadership, mentorship, and collaboration skills of teacher mentors and TECA will support the leadership development of the candidates of color.
Alexa Cathey, a senior at Austin Peay State University shared, "One of my motivations for applying to the Ascension Project was to connect and network with other educators who are people of color. Being connected to other teachers of color would help me not to feel alone in the world of education. Within this community, I anticipate that we can share our challenges, successes, and stories with each other. I want to be a part of a community of educators where we can laugh together, cry together, and learn together.”
All of the candidates, known as Ascenders, were selected from different preparation programs at universities in middle Tennessee, and ten of Ascenders are first-generation college students. The inaugural cohort consists of:
Ceayanci Alexander, Senior, Middle Tennessee State University
Alleyah Allen, Senior, Middle Tennessee State University
Alexa Cathey, Senior, Austin Peay State University
Karen De Leon, Junior, Lipscomb University
Brionna Harbach, Junior, Middle Tennessee State University
Cicela Hernandez, Senior, Lipscomb University
Myah Jennings, Senior, Austin Peay State University
Destinee Johnson, Senior, Austin Peay State University
Jeanell Jones, Senior, Middle Tennessee State University
Deja Moulden, Senior, Austin Peay State University
Jeremiah Phillips, Junior, Middle Tennessee State University
Janiah Terry, Senior, Austin Peay State University
Deonsharae Williams, Junior, Middle Tennessee State University
Similarly, the mentor teachers, known as Tennessee Ready to Lead Fellows, were selected through a rigorous process. Each Fellow is a demonstrably effective classroom teacher, has demonstrated leadership in and out of the classroom, and identifies as a teacher of color. The 2022-2023 Tennessee Ready to Lead Fellows are:
Dr. Candra Clariette, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Amissa Green, Robertson County Schools
Jaquandria Hayes, Metro-Nashville Public Schools Jasmine Jacobs, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Toya Kadeba, Rutherford County Schools
Taylor Kirk, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Tameka Marshall, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Tovasha Myree, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
Daven Oglesby, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Darlene Perry, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Evelin Salgado Bustamante, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
Leticia Skae-Jackson, Williamson County Schools
Dr. Meagan Smart, Metro-Nashville Public Schools
“The first few years within the classroom can be extremely rough because of a general lack of support. This is especially true for educators of color as the profession does not represent or resemble us,” said Taylor Kirk. “This often leads to feelings of isolation and ultimately can cause a departure from the profession. I was interested in this program because I have a heart for mentoring new educators of color to gain their ground in the profession.”
About Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance
Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance (TECA) seeks to develop, connect, and support educators of color with decision-making power who shape, create, and influence policy. TECA works to amplify the voice, presence, and support for educators of color while remaining student-centered and solutions-oriented. More information is available at www.tneca.org.
About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all. Teachplus.org
Diarese George, Ed. D.
Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance
We're always excited to see what Fellows do, and we recently got work of a great new program at Freedom Middle School in Franklin.
TEC Fellowship Alumni Tequila Cornelius, Priscilla Conerly and others instituted a schoolwide book study recently to engage students and help them bond and build relationships.
Endorsed by school administrators, the book study was designed by the school’s literacy team, which works with media specialists to choose the right young adult novel to study. This year’s selection was “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander, a story told in poems, and the book study kicked off Jan. 12.
NEW Research from TERA finds Black and male teachers recieve lower observation scores than white and female peers.
New Research Reveals Disparities Along Racial and Gender Lines in Teacher Observations
Recently the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) released new research that reveals stark disparities along racial and gender lines in teacher observations over the last decade. Regardless of the evaluation system used (i.e. TEAM, COMPASS), Black and male teachers in Tennessee have received lower observation scores than White and female teachers every year since the state’s evaluation system began in 2011. This holds true across all school levels, even when teachers have similar qualifications (i.e. experience levels and degree attainment) and student achievement growth scores. This is extremely unfortunate and problematic; it has strong implications that impact the recruitment and retention for Black and male teachers.
Since TECA’s inception, we have consistently heard from teachers of color in districts across the state that they lack access to leadership opportunities (teacher leadership, aspiring instructional coaches and aspiring administrator programs) and roles. Admission and selection to the many of the programs and roles, take into consideration an educators’ overall evaluation score, oftentimes referred to as level of effectiveness or LOE. In many instances, teacher observations make up 50-70 percent of teachers’ level of effectiveness. For Black and male teachers that have continually and consistently received lower observation scores, this can have an impact on their ability for career advancement and progression, which may influence their decision to leave the profession.
Teachers of color make up approximately 15 percent of Tennessee’s educator workforce, and of that total 12 percent are Black teachers. In order to increase teacher diversity in the state, it is paramount that we retain our existing teachers of color. TERA’s research illuminates one of many racial inequities that our educator workforce faces.
TECA Executive Director quoted in Education Week article on what Districts are doing to attract Principals of Color.
It’s not enough for school systems to say they desire a diverse workforce. They must explicitly make a commitment to doing so.
Click to read the article.
Click to read article: Tennessee revises its enforcement of law prohibiting classroom discussions about race and bias
...But Diarese George, the director of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance, says this law is ultimately a disservice to students and educators.
“This is the kind of legislature that impacts anybody who’s committed to being truthful in classrooms,” George says.
He worries that the law and its vagueness could discourage teachers from addressing issues around racism that are unfolding in real time — whether in current events or on school grounds.
“The same things we’re trying to remove educators from discussing, talking, teaching about, bringing into the classroom are the same things that are happening in school districts and schools systems across the state,” George explains...
Earlier this year, we conducted some surveys and focus groups to help us revamp our membership experience. One of the things you shared was you wanted more tailored professional learning! We're excited to launch the first virtual PD training in that series based on your feedback. This will be a live webinar. If you are unable to attend, you will be able to watch the playback on our website. Register below!
Best Practices and Strategies for Trauma-Informed Teaching
Wednesday, November 17. 2021
3:30-5:30 PM on Zoom Webinar
PD Description: Dr. Marcus Matthews will share strategies that help educators assist traumatized students self-regulate and deescalate when in potentially hazardous situations. This professional development will give specific and practical strategies that will help teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents develop healthy and supportive relationships with students who might not have had healthy and supportive relationships with any other adults in years, if ever.
**We will be able to provide certificates of completion if you are able to receive in-service credit at your district. Please check with your district first!**
Dr. Marcus Matthews
Principal, Consultant, & Author
Dr. Marcus Matthews is an author, educational leader and consultant and motivational speaker. He holds a doctorate in higher and adult education, a master’s in instruction and curriculum leadership and a bachelor’s in journalism, all respectively from University of Memphis. He also earned his K – 12 Instructional Leadership License from Christian Brothers University. The Memphis native has 17 years of experience in education having served in the roles of English teacher, literacy specialist, behavioral specialist, behavioral analyst, dean of students and assistant principal. His previously was the assistant principal at Nicholas Hobbs Academy (Youth Villages), a non-profit psychiatric residential treatment facility serving more than 100 young men with severe behavioral/emotional/mental challenges in a Level 4 (maximum security) setting. He is currently the principal at Frayser Community Schools in Memphis, Tennessee.
Interested in learning more about the strategic planning process?
Click the image below to learn more about Schermco’s unique approach to strategic planning and how it helped TECA secure a six-figure grant to expand our work across the state of Tennessee. This podcast episode is ideal for executive leaders, funders, and other stakeholders interested in organizational growth and supporting educators of color.
SchermCo is a national social-impact implementation firm that offers strategic advising, organizational development, and implementation services to schools and education-focused organizations that support underserved communities. We reinvest 1% of our time/funds back into the communities we serve.
TECA Executive Director Diarese George on the TDRS podcast discussing the importance of Black educators.
TECA Executive Director Diarese George serves on Hunt Institute Panel: Building Culturally Affirming School Environments
Our ED Diarese George served on a panel this week held by The Hunt Institute in partnership with Teach Plus.
As America’s public education system continues to become more diverse, debate persists around the consideration of race in curriculum and instruction. However, students and educators both demonstrate higher performance and overall well-being when race and culture are intentionally integrated into their classroom experience. In this webinar, The Hunt Institute is collaborating with Teach Plus to discuss the findings of their report Making Culturally Affirming Schools A Priority: Lessons from Teachers of Color in a Time of Crisis. Resource experts will discuss efforts to create culturally affirming spaces in schools.