A teacher shortage has quietly taken root around the country, and the COVID-19 pandemic sure hasn’t helped that ongoing issue. We value our teachers, and we know having great teachers who love what they do and who are highly skilled are a vital part of a successful school district.
We have great teachers, and we want more of them. As a step along that path, this year the Oregon Department of Education and the Educator Advancement Council awarded grants of nearly $7 million to 26 school districts, community colleges and universities around Oregon. In Central Oregon, the High Desert Education Service District received funds to benefit the Redmond School District, as well as Sisters and Crook County schools.
The grant seeks to help regional and local partnerships — between colleges and school districts, for example — to diversify the teacher workforce and eliminate barriers that prevent teachers from diverse backgrounds from carving pathways in education.
Right now, about 24% of Redmond School District’s student population identifies as people of color. Approximately 6% of our teachers and administrators identify as such. We’d like our district’s workforce to look more like our student population — it’s a benefit to students when they see teachers who look like them and who may have shared life experiences.
The goal of the grant is to increase the diversity in our educator group, and in order to do that, Redmond’s grant funding will be used to support existing teachers of color furthering their education — helping pay for tuition, licensure and other costs to obtain a master’s degree.
The funds will also provide opportunities for classified employees to obtain their teaching degrees. And in order to encourage more diverse teachers in the pipeline, the district plans to create a cadet program with Central Oregon Community College for high schoolers interested in the teaching profession, and a mentor program that will support them.
“Helping people who live in this community grow and become future teachers and leaders of the Redmond School District is good for our students and good for our schools,” Superintendent Charan Cline said. “We want a diverse workforce that is committed to the long-term social health of our community.”
The district believes that by removing financial and other barriers for individuals of color who want to be teachers, we can soon have that diverse workforce we seek, and our students will benefit.