How to recruit and retain bilingual teachers and men of color

No school district has completely cracked the code for recruiting and retaining high-quality educators of color.

But two Learn-From Education Week 2023 Leaders who have made significant progress on that vital priority offered their advice at the Education Week leadership symposium earlier this month, which ran from 10 to May 12 in Washington, DC

Natalie Griffin, director of special programs for the 3,000-student Mineral Wells district in Texasit has more than doubled the number of bilingual educators working in the district, as well as revamped the way Mineral Wells educates English learners.

His existing teachers have become some of his best recruiters, he said. “They help me network and bring their friends or their families,” and encourage them to teach in the district.

And for retention, he said, it helps develop personal relationships with teachers.

“I think it’s about valuing them, as people, as family members,” Griffin said during a May 11 panel discussion at the event. “So if I hear something coming up, say a wedding, an operation, whatever, I put it on my calendar, and I make sure to call them on the phone or text them and say, ‘Oh, for goodness sake, I remember you had this in view. How are things going?’ It’s so simple, but it means a lot to them.”

Chimere Stephens, Senior Director of Diversity Recruitment and NYC Men Teach for New York City Public Schoolshas helped lead an effort to nearly double the percentage of male teachers of color in the nation’s largest school district over the past eight years, from 8.5 percent in 2015 to 15 percent last year.

He has designed a scholarship that allows college students interested in teaching to spend the summer working in New York City public school summer programs. They can then come back and serve as recruiters for the district at their colleges.

“It also allows us to extend our recruiting reach because we now have an extension of our recruiting team to, say, 30 campuses across the country,” said Stephens, who was also on the panel. “We ask you to hold an event in the fall [at their colleges]an event in the spring, and all we have to do is pay them in loot and maybe a small stipend.”

And when it comes to early-career teachers, “you can’t talk about recruitment without talking about retention,” Stephens said.

His office matches new teachers with a mentor, usually another man of color who they may feel more comfortable talking to than their school-appointed mentor. He thinks of this as social emotional learning for teachers.

“We created a space for educators to showcase their work among their peers and then across the district as well,” Stephens said.