College of Education awarded SEED grant for its efforts to prepare and support diverse teachers

The Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy helps teachers work effectively with their multicultural students. One tactic they use is biography-driven instruction. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Holmes)

Editor’s note: Corrected the caption from “biology-driven” to “biography-driven.” Also corrected the quotes “our hope is to be willing …” to “our hope is to be able …” and “this is a three-year project with the potential to expand at five years” to “this is a three-year project with the potential to expand [to] five years.” We originally misheard Ms. Holmes’ in her quotes, and after listening back to the interview, have corrected the quotes to what she said. We thank Ms. Holmes for bringing this to our attention.

The Kansas State College of Education received a $3.9 million grant from the Supporting Effective Educator Development Program for its work to diversify the teacher workforce.

Socorro Herrera, executive director of the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy, said the center helps bring together students and teachers from different backgrounds. 

“There’s so much that we need to understand about setting up spaces where we bring together students, whether it’s high school or university or community,” Herrera said. “We bring people together to engage in dialogue to get to know one another.”

Herrera said one reason the College of Education received the grant is because it has a long history of inclusive efforts, such as the Bilingual/Bicultural Education Students Interacting To Obtain Success model. 

“In 1999 the BESITOS model was written and it was to prepare teachers to work in diverse classrooms,” Herrera said. “It was on the premise that we would bring together students from all over the state of Kansas. They would come together and learn from one another. They would be prepared differently in that they would really begin to think about their socialization and the gifts they really brought.” 

Herrera said allowing students to learn from each other decreases the stigma between people of different backgrounds.

“As human beings we all have assumptions we hold about people, and then we have these gifts that we bring to any place,” Herrera said. “ Unfortunately we’ve created a world where we’re suspect of one another. Centers like this, all of that doesn’t have to do with being divisive. It’s actually about coming together to understand.”  

Herrera said the College of Education was also recognized for its Grow Your Own program. 

“[Grow Your Own] is where different districts and school systems understand and they begin to nurture their high school students and get them excited to become teachers,” Herrera said. “Those students want to be close to home. Teachers of color oftentimes prefer to go back to their own communities to work. You’re growing your own teachers that are going to be less likely to leave the schools and that are already familiar with the community.”

Melissa Holmes, associate director for CIMA, said the College of Education deserves the SEED grant because it is “poised to lead the charge” of increasing diversity among teachers. 

“This is about serving the students of Kansas and their families as best as we can and also building regional capacity along with national capacity,” Holmes said. “ It’s fitting that we were selected both geographically and for the ongoing work that we have been doing to support the recruitment, retention and preparation for teachers of color.” 

Drennyn Ades, junior in elementary education, said having professors who are concerned about diversity helped her learn more during her time at K-State. 

“If you move out of the state, out of the country— Even at different schools here in Manhattan there’s a very diverse group of students,” Ades said. “Knowing how to interact and learning more about different types of backgrounds will help you be prepared as a teacher to deal with stuff in the classroom and support all the students.” 

Holmes said the College of Education plans to use the grant to continue its collaboration with the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

“It’s a real exchange of ideas, so we will be collaborating with one another to share expertise, to build on that expertise and to develop guidance not only to be used across the state of Kansas but across the nation,” Holmes said. “Our hope is to be able to provide that guidance through the networking and collaboration that takes place in the project. This is a three-year project with the potential to expand [to] five years.”

Herrera said the most important part of increasing diversity is a willingness to learn. 

“It’s so important to have those diversity and inclusion and belonging conversations where we say, ‘Let’s look at each other and recognize that we’ve traveled different roads, different pathways,’ and it’s through the exchange of ideas and language and of experiences that we are truly going to begin to understand one another,” Herrera said.