A Lack of Color: Teacher diversity sparks conversation
Approximately 17.7 percent of the teacher demographic at Northwood is minority teachers; the remaining 82.3 percent is white teachers. Many have wondered why there is only a small amount
of minority teachers, even though the student body is more diverse.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a minority teacher in Northwood,” senior Edward Austin said. “It is really weird that there wouldn’t be more African Americans or Latino-descent teachers around here because of how diverse the school is. There should be a whole lot more.”
Sophomore Anisha McFadden thinks the students make the school diverse, but there are not enough minority teachers.
“I feel like the students allow more of a diversity feel for Northwood,” McFadden said. “I feel like it makes it more of a melting pot. You have students and clubs united together. GLI (Girls Learn International), My Sister’s Keeper and My Brother’s Keeper are coming together to make it more diverse. As far as the teachers, there are only a few select teachers that actually recognize the diversity as being an issue.”
Principal Justin Bartholomew said Northwood’s faculty is not as diverse as he would like.
“You want your student body and your teachers to be reflective of one another. And we aren’t even close to there. I will say that when you go to hire teachers, you have a white dominated group of potential employees that show up.”
Bartholomew has seen the impacts of minority teachers on the lives of students.
“Academically, I think you have students who gravitate to educators who care about them and that could be from whatever background,” Bartholomew said. “If that teacher understands them and their background and is of the same background, that is huge.”
Hispanic senior Dennis Ixcajo thinks minority students benefit from having minority teachers.
“For the minority students that are here, I guess you can see a stronger relationship with minority teachers,” Ixcajo said. “They share the same background and they understand each other more.”
Ixcajo has been impacted by one of the minority teachers at Northwood, Terrance Gary.
“Coach Gary just came this semester, but he reached out to me, and he knew when something was up with me,” Ixcajo said. “He would ask me questions and make sure I was okay. He pushes me and encourages me to do well in school.”
Agriculture teacher Gale Brickhouse hopes that she is impacting the lives of all students and wants be a role model for other African Americans.
“I hope I have [influenced students],” Brickhouse said. “[By] seeing someone like them in the teaching pool, [they know] that they could do this, if they so desire.”
She was influenced by her African-American teachers, and that is one of the reasons she decided to become an agriculture teacher.
“My AG [agriculture] teacher was African American, and there were a lot of African-American teachers [at my old high school],” Brickhouse said. “They were probably the big reason why I decided I can do this.”
Brickhouse thinks there is absence of diversity due to the region in which Northwood is located.
“I’m thinking there’s just not a lot of people that want to come to a rural school,” Brickhouse said. “If [teachers] come into teaching, they want to go to places like Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville—some of the bigger schools and the bigger areas.”
Bartholomew explains that finding teachers is difficult, despite the county attending frequent job fairs. The amount of applications the administration receives is limited, making it hard to find teachers in general, let alone minority teachers.
“Ten years ago I might have gotten 100 applications for a position, now I might get 12,” Bartholomew said. “And by the time we call up those folks, that well is pretty much dry.”
According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 41 in the United States of America in teacher pay. Bartholomew thinks teacher pay plays important role in teachers seeking careers in the state of North Carolina.
“We are competing with South Carolina, Virginia and all these other states around us that pay their teachers more,” Bartholomew said.
According to Bartholomew, ethnicity and race do not affect the hiring process.
“You don’t just go and hire minority teachers because a teacher is a minority teacher,” Bartholomew said. “They have to be highly qualified. Like most any public organization, we do not discriminate. So when looking at names on a paper, you’re looking at names and qualifications. And you call people based on what their experiences have been.”
– By Tory Scott