At Florida International University (FIU) we believe in the importance of developing the next generation of diverse and highly qualified teachers. We are the largest public institution in South Florida, serving more than 56,000 students, and as such, the fourth largest university and the largest Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) in the country. Like other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) our student population makes us a natural fit for recruiting, developing, and growing the next generation of diverse teachers, and in our case, teacher candidates who identify as Hispanic/LatinX in particular. Our work with students has also allowed us to understand the factors that are most likely to retain students in teacher preparation programs and the barriers that impede success.
Many of the students who attend FIU are from the South Florida community and graduates of schools in the Miami-Dade County Public School system, a large, similarly diverse urban school district. As a result, FIU serves as a pipeline, admitting students from the community school district that then feeds the system with its next generation of primarily Hispanic/LatinX teachers. The development of this pipeline has been important to FIU, including working with high schools on the implementation of teaching academies that support high school students interested in careers in teaching and education. For many of our students, becoming a teacher in their community is a natural fit, but this proposition is significantly more challenging when students on campus are living away from home during their college years, and/or the surrounding community lacks diversity. Teacher candidates learning to teach in a school that feels significantly different from your own (including demographically) can be a barrier to success. Establishing pipelines, cohorts, and hiring diversity mentors may be critical to Schools and Colleges of Education looking to expand the diversity of their teacher candidates.
Beyond the development of pipelines, diverse teacher candidates may also require more specific financial support once admitted to programs. FIU is home to a sizeable group of students who are the first in their families to attend college, and many are Pell-eligible. Teacher preparation programs have inherent fees attached to them and are not friendly to students who need to work in order to get through school. Taking time off work to complete a full-time internship can be a barrier to success. So can the fees associated with certification. These issues deserve larger conversations about the systemic issues that limit true diversity, but we know that establishing scholarships and providing students with financial support is sometimes as important as providing the emotional support necessary to ensure teacher candidates are prepared to teach in our schools.
FIU aims to be an example of a university preparing the next generation of diverse teachers. We are proud of our contribution to this area, but recognize that we still have our own work to do. Together, teacher preparations programs should work together to ensure that children are given the opportunity to see a diverse body of educators that will prepare them for the future.
Dr. Laura H. Dinehart, Senior Associate Dean, School Of Education & Human Development, College of Arts, Science & Education
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