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Virginia Tech, Shaw University partner to increase Black teachers in the classroom

Crystal Graham
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Virginia Tech has created a pipeline for Black students to pursue a graduate degree in teaching through a new pilot program.

The partnership with Shaw University, a historically Black college in Raleigh, N.C., aims to increase the number of minority teachers in classrooms – especially in the STEM fields.

While the number of minorities teaching has increased in recent years, it hasn’t kept pace with the growth of students from the same population.

The critical teacher shortage in the United States led two VT professors to develop the partnership.

Brenda Band is a professor and program leader in the School of Education’s science education and STEM education programs.

“There are not enough teachers who look like minoritized students in the classroom,” said Brand. “This initiative grew out of a need for us to increase the numbers of teachers going into STEM, but also to help increase students going into STEM teaching from historically underrepresented groups.”

Lezly Taylor is an assistant professor in the science education program.

“Addressing systemic challenges requires an informed approach that deals with barriers to the teaching profession as it relates to recruitment, preparation, and retention,” said Taylor. “This partnership aims to contribute to reducing disparities in the teaching profession, ensuring that every educator can deliver a quality education and that every student can access it without barriers.”

Applications for the partnership went out, and two Shaw students, Javari Burgess and Whitney Osideko, were accepted to be a part of the pilot year.

“Javari worked in the lab with me and was training other students, and so I saw this knack for teaching in him that he hadn’t fully come to understand,” said Kimberly Raiford, the department head for health, human and life sciences at Shaw University. “It was the same thing for Whitney. She just had that ‘something.’”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.