Area Seeks Diverse Early Childhood Teachers
By Dianne Anderson
More support for Black teachers may be coming soon to Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Dominguez Hills as campuses look to tap culturally competent and racially diverse educators for a PK-3 early childhood credential.
A recent gift of $11 million to CSULB and $22 million for CSUDH from the Ballmer Group is hoping to address the serious 12-15,000 person teacher shortage.
In even shorter supply is the continuing gap in Black teachers.
Elyssa Taylor-Stewart said that Long Beach Unified School District needs more Black teachers, but Black students are not getting into Cal State University Long Beach in the numbers that she would like to see.
“Not a lot of Black kids are getting in there, so they are not coming out of there. Long Beach has been working on creating more Black educators, but they keep going to the same pool,” said Taylor-Stewart, an administrator at the district’s Office of Equity, Engagement and Partnership, Black Student Achievement Initiative, and the Coalition of Involved African American Parents.
One recommendation that she and others have made is that Black teachers are available, and they could be pooled from HBCUs. They are also already culturally competent.
She said about 6-7% of the district’s teaching population are African American.
“Being culturally competent is not something you learn, you can learn information from a book, but it’s related to lived experiences. It’s like being supportive of the LGBTQIA community, you can learn about it, but it’s engaging people in the community, developing a heart space for folks,” she said.
For the early childhood credential, the offering seems great, and she hopes that momentum can continue for the Black community.
“Right now, the push is to support Black students and it is. In a minute, it’s not going to be. Three to four years after George Floyd, everybody is going backwards,” she said.
Gov. Newsom recently said that about 400,000 more 4-year-olds will be enrolled in transitional kindergarten by 2025.
CSULB announced their excitement in partnering with Ballmer Group in joining California’s commitment to universal preschool and professionalizing the early childcare workforce – primarily women of color who earn, on average, lower wages.
“The gift will enable us to provide meaningful financial support to current early childhood educators, so they are ready to enter our elementary schools. It also offers a pathway for the excellent employment opportunities our public schools provide. The gift will also support the development of the PK-3 credential, giving all students at CSULB an additional career option in education. We are grateful for Ballmer’s generous support,” said Anna Ortiz, dean of the College of Education at CSULB.
Autrilla Gillis said that part of the problem is there is a big disconnect in getting information to the students and the community.
She graduated from CSULB as a Black Studies major, but if she could do it all again, she would have taken a different approach.
At the time, she didn’t know that most of the classes she took would transfer to the Liberal Studies department and satisfy the requirements for a teaching credential, offering her both a Bachelor of Arts in Black Studies, along with a credential if she was willing to take a few more classes.
“Had I known before I graduated, I certainly would have exercised that option. It literally is a dissemination of information issue,” she said. “I hate to sound cliche, but knowledge is power, if you know about these opportunities you can take advantage of them, but if you don’t, then you won’t.”
Gillis, co-founder of the nonprofit The SIX Long Beach, is pushing community improvement through collaboration with businesses, organizations, churches, schools and the community in the Sixth District.
Since the pandemic, she said the teacher force has dwindled, and many districts are starting to think outside the box to recruit new teachers, and establish pathways toward credentialing. Within her district, she spearheads the Teacher Pathway for classified employees, offering guidance and mentorship through the credentialing process.
While many accommodations are offered to usher interested candidates in the field, she feels the key is targeting recent graduates or seniors, and being deliberate in marketing employment opportunities to the Black community.
It also never hurts to have more Blacks in higher-tiered positions.
“The problem is that the information isn’t readily available,” said Gillis, Ed.D, a former teacher and principal, and director of after-school programs for 13 school campuses.
“Historically, as an African American educator in varying capacities, I have always been the minority in the staffing pool – until I reached administrator status,” she said.
At CSUDH, most of their Ballmer gift will go toward scholarships for students through the university’s Toros Teach L.A. Program to prepare culturally competent, racially diverse teachers and leaders in schools across the Los Angeles region.
Up to 1,200 students can access grant support toward their bachelor’s degree and PK-3 or K-8 teaching credentials. Current teachers can upskill with the new units needed for PK-3 credential once it becomes available, along with certificate coursework for those seeking to improve teaching ethnically diverse learners.
“This program, supported by a generous gift from Ballmer Group, will have an outstanding impact on communities with a high need for credentialed preschool and early childhood educators,” said CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham in a release. “It will support communities of color by creating a pipeline of teachers working and staying in the area, and improve those educators’ ability to create positive outcomes for their students through the use of culturally competent pedagogies.”
To learn more about the CSULB early childhood program, see https://www.csulb.edu/college-of-education/early-childhood-education
For CSUDH, see https://www.csudh.edu/coe/