New partnership aims to make teacher diversification efforts in Nebraska more cohesive
27 Jul 2023 By Kelcey Buck
Amanda Morales has spent her career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working on a variety of collaborative projects aiming to diversify the teacher population in Nebraska. Now, she’s helping bring all those projects and collaborators together as part of the Nebraska Educator Diversification Partnership, one of three new Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) Labs across the country launched this year by the National Center for Research on Educator Diversity (NCRED).
“Partnership efforts across the region and the state around teacher diversification have been in motion for a long time, but they have not been as well connected as they became this past year,” said Morales, an associate professor in Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education. “The opportunity to be part of this RPP Lab has helped us think more deeply about how all those different pieces fit together.”
The Nebraska Educator Diversification Partnership is a coalition among key faculty within teacher education programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska at Kearney and several school districts in Nebraska. For Morales and her collaborators, the work begins with inspiring students of Color early on at the high-school level to become teachers, followed by providing support and mentorship throughout their higher education experience and into their induction years.
“They need support in not only knowing how to successfully navigate college, but also how to utilize their language, culture and identity as profoundly powerful resources as a future teacher,” Morales said. “Students are not always given messages that their culture and their language are assets in schools or instruction for how to use them as tools in their teaching of kids who look, speak and engage in the world in the same ways that they do.”
There is also partnership work to be done within schools to support teachers of Color once they graduate. Preparing school administrators, providing leadership and professional development for in-service teachers and creating critical affinity spaces for educators of Color across various levels (paraeducator-to-principal) is all part of the growing work the RPP hopes to deepen.
“It really is multi-layer, multi-institutional systemic work that has to happen in order for us to really move the needle.”
NCRED was launched in 2020 at the University of Houston. The center is committed to dismantling inequity in teacher development systems through supporting the academic and professional advancement of ethnoracially, culturally and linguistically diverse educators. The three selected RPPs are designed to make progress in their local/regional areas, while building knowledge about how scholars and practitioners can partner around this complex work. All RPPs are committed to increasing the presence and retention of Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers in high-need schools.
“It’s been really wonderful to be part of a national lab where other institutions are engaging in similar partnership work that is systemic, that is relational, and that is as complex and involved as the work that we’re trying to do,” Morales said. “The RPP is really intended to develop educator diversity programs nationally to help those programs engage in both research and practice related to teacher diversification.”
Morales knows the work being done by the Nebraska Educator Diversification Partnership requires deep ongoing relationships with everyone involved, and an important aspect of that relationship building is the sharing of knowledge and opportunities to grow and learn together. Her long-term goal remains what it has always been: making spaces in higher education and the education profession that are more representative of the students in our K-12 classrooms.
“If the teaching field is more diverse. If our teacher prep programs are more diverse. If our high school students are coming into these spaces feeling supported, valued, seen and well prepared, and landing in schools in our partner districts feeling supported, well prepared, nurtured and mentored. That, for me, would be success.”
As an experimental context for developing RPP models focused on educator diversity, NCRED launched the Community Teacher Equity Development (CTED) program in 2021 in the greater Houston area. The Nebraska Educator Diversification Partnership is one of three RPP Lab sites across the country that were added in 2023. The others are based at Roanoke College in Virginia and at the University of Colorado Denver. To learn more about NCRED and the RPP Lab, visit thencred.org/.
College of Education and Human Sciences
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education