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'Grow Your Own' program addresses teacher diversity gap

The University of Colorado Denver's Pathways2Teaching program recruits young people of color interested in becoming educators to bridge diversity gaps.

DENVER — Roughly 1,500 high school students across the country have completed the Pathways2Teaching program since its launch in 2010. Dr. Margarita Bianco, an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver, created the program to increase diversity in teachers and educational leadership positions. 

"I did not have and still, completing my doctoral program, never had a Latina or Latino teacher of faculty member," said Dr. Bianco. "Even now at the age of 65, I've never had that experience."

The program offers nine college credits for high school juniors and seniors. The courses are centered around social justice and equity. 

"It gives students an opportunity to talk about their experiences as students of color and how they’ve been marginalized and disenfranchised," said Dr. Bianco. 

Students who complete the three courses are given a paraprofessional license issued by the University of Colorado Denver, which allows them to work in school districts while they continue their college education. 

"Programs like this that give students of color some of the chances and privileges that we don’t usually get in schools, it really makes a difference," said Joselyne Garcia-Moreno, who completed the program and is now working on her Master's degree. "This program offers much more than just a class, it’s about teaching you how to really believe in yourself and your culture." 

Garcia-Moreno spent her 2nd-8th grade school years in Mexico. When she returned to the United States, she said she could barely have a conversation in English. After completing the Pathways2Teaching program, she was immediately hired at Lincoln High School, as a paraprofessional, after graduation.  

"Getting to a point where I was able to support students in a way I wish I was supported, really brings me a lot of joy," she said. 

According to the Colorado Department of Education, there are 55,842 teachers in the state:

  • 86% are White 
  • 8.8% are Hispanic/Latino 
  • 1.6% are Black/African American 
  • 1.3% are Asian 
  • 1.1% are two or more races 
  • 0.3% are American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 0.2% are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

Dr. Bianco said the program is aimed at recruiting students from low income, minority communities and then having them return as educators to better address the needs of future generations. 

"Who better understands the needs of a community than a member from that community," she said. 

Garcia-Moreno said she plans to return to Lincoln High School as a math teacher in the Fall of 2022, after finishing graduate school. 

Pathways2Teaching also has a scholarship fund to help support students who continue their undergraduate and graduate education. Dr. Bianco said as the program grows, so does the need for support. 

For more information about enrolling in the program email info@pathways2teaching.com or call 303-907-9767.

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