Representation Matters

“There is something that may be even more important than black students having black teachers, and that is white students having black teachers.”

- Gloria Ladson-Billings

As the dust had just begun to settle from the teacher’s strike in Los Angeles, Oakland teachers prepared for a fight of their own. In an effort to secure pay raises, ensure smaller class sizes, put a temporary halt to school closures, and secure more support staff, Oakland Unified School District teachers led a seven-day strike in February resulting in them getting a great deal of what they asked for. But it’s far from enough.

Brookings’s Brown Center on Education Policy, 2019

Brookings’s Brown Center on Education Policy, 2019

These strikes – and others around the country in the past few years – are fundamentally about students being served more fully and powerfully. Teachers must have the financial, professional, and structural support to do their jobs effectively. But an additional stressor on the quality of education we provide to young people was underscored recently in a study finding that the proportion of non-white teachers is not keeping pace with population growth. While Millennials are the most diverse generation in history, the proportion of non-white teachers in the Millennial generation is eerily stagnant. This has a critical effect on our communities: even one Teacher of Color in a student’s K-12 education experience can have profound, transformative, and long-term effects on their interest in, access to, and achievement in school, let alone on their perceptions of power and smartness. And yet we know that in addition to having far too few Teachers of Color in the workforce, we aren’t retaining the Teachers of Color we do have: Teachers of Color leave the teaching profession in greater numbers and earlier than white teachers largely because of insufficient preparation to teach and lack of ongoing support.

So what are we all going to do about this?

At Trellis we are committed to preparing, developing, and retaining highly-effective STEM teachers. Central to that goal is an intentional focus on teacher diversity. If the teachers in the classroom reflect critical identities of the students they serve, and they have the best professional preparation and ongoing support to serve them, more students will have the opportunity and interest to pursue STEM courses, degrees, and careers.

This year at our 5th Annual Unconference, Trellis is gathering diverse groups of community stakeholders (from students to educators to business leaders) to discuss how we can ensure all strata of our society – our classrooms, colleges, and companies, in particular – can be reflective of our communities. We are past the defense of the need for this representation - we’re ready to make it happen.

To transforming teaching together,


P.S. Learn more about our UnConference and register (for free) here. We look forward to taking action with you to make our communities stronger!