Lack of Diversity in Teachers

By Harpur Barahona and Lilli Duncan

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While the students in the classrooms at West High are diverse, the people leading these classrooms are predominantly white.. Out of 100 teachers at West High, only six are of a diverse background. Public schools in the U.S. have always had mainly white teachers, according to a recent study by the Department of Education.
Luigi Enriquez is in his first year as a choir director, and he’s experienced some of the challenges that come with being a new teacher, and that of being one of color. “In terms of music teachers, rather than the color of our skin, we talk about our content more than the person doing the teaching. I worry more about my music and the things that I’m teaching kids and I’ve never really considered skin color as a hindrance to something like that.” Enriquez said. But, Enriquez also thinks that skin color does play a role in life at school. “I’m sure that if I got this job based on just my skin color some teachers would be like, ‘what the heck? That’s not fair because it should be based on merit’ I’m sure that’s how the rest of the world feels right now too, it should be on merit and that we shouldn’t worry about skin color but it does play a part.” said Enriquez.
“I’m so new to teaching that the lack of experience can sometimes show in my teaching, or sometimes kids will test you to see how far they can push you,” Enriquez said. “Just because we connect so well, but then kids misuse language and they think that it’s okay, or that their behavior is okay sometimes, and I don’t know how to deal with it, because I’m so young.”
Enriquez says it can also be difficult to fit into the school community, but overall teaching at West has been a good experience. Enriquez is one of the youngest teachers at West, but for some kids—this makes it easier to interact with him. “I think it’s a positive thing [for students to have someone like them] I think it’s positive overall, I think kids can relate to me easier and I can relate to them easier. I think that welcomes a safe environment for kids to come and talk to you, and plus it’s just good as a new teacher to help have that relationship early on that I can still communicate with you guys [the students] and connect right away and not have to work into it.” said Enriquez.
Dean of Students Maria Martin sometimes feels that it’s more difficult for her to connect with the students due to the generational gap. Martin has been at West for 13 years. She works with the student organization SSKIED and her office is in the 9th grade center’s office. “I think the one thing that creates more of a disconnect [between teacher and student], it’s not the ethnicity, it’s not the gender, it’s the generational gap. This adult woman who doesn’t know me wants to tell me how to deal with whatever it is that’s lead to me being in the office right now,” Martin said.
Martin says she usually doesn’t jump at describing herself as a minority, “I’m from a generation that got comfortable with the word ‘minority,’ but in the last 12 to 13 years I’ve been working here at west, and especially the past 10 years working with SSIKED, I have learned to not use the word minority to describe myself. That’s something that working with a student organization has really empowered me to drop that word from my description,” Martin said. The ICCSD has an initiative to hire people of minority status, and some teachers question whether a teacher was hired based on merit or on their diverse background. The question has been posed to Martin on multiple occasions, “I came to the University of Iowa back in the early 90s’- late 80s’ and it was asked. I had worked my butt off, I had always aspired to pursue something in the professional way, and for anyone to question my preparation or the integrity which I carry out my duties is offensive. I’ve heard the arguments against affirmative action, and I’ve heard it in that context [not hiring based on merit].” Martin also said later that if her ethnicity did play a part in being hired she would possibly be thankful, and try her best to exceed expectations.

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Lack of Diversity in Teachers