Eliza Carey didn’t necessarily grow up wanting to be a teacher. She has always enjoyed working with children – she even homeschooled four of her five children at the start of the pandemic. But getting a teaching license was not in his plan.
Now, when she thinks about becoming a teacher, she knows that’s what she wants to do. At the Monroe County Community School Corp., she hopes to reach about 10 certified black teachers throughout the district. She wants black students in the district to have role models who look like them.
Carey is one of 17 people preparing to become a teacher at MCCSC through a new licensure program. The program, approved by the MCCSC School Board in October 2021, was created to help alleviate the society’s teacher shortage and increase diversity among teachers, primarily by hiring people of color and people who are multilingual.
The MCCSC rejected a Herald-Times request for information about the number of people of color in the teacher cohort and the group’s ethnic breakdown due to privacy concerns, communications manager Kelby Turmail said in an e -mail.
In her current job as a special education paraprofessional at Templeton Elementary School, Carey already has a black student who says he wants to be a teacher because of her.
“He’ll come and sit in my chair and I’ll say, ‘All right, sir, you’re not a teacher yet,'” Carey said. “It’s incredible.”
Scholarships for paraprofessionals
Through emergency relief funds for Elementary and Secondary III schools, the program provides full scholarships to paraprofessionals already working with MCCSC. MCCSC has 157 paraprofessionals who help in classrooms, Turmail said.
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Classes began in January at Ivy Tech Community College and St. Mary of the Woods College. Carey and her peers will begin teaching students in the fall of 2025, and successful participants will receive their teaching license in January 2026. In exchange, they have agreed to teach at MCCSC for a minimum of two years.
The MCCSC aimed to identify applicants from diverse backgrounds who may not have traditionally had access to higher education, including people of color, first-generation college students and single parents. Bilingual or multilingual teachers are especially needed in society, Turmail said.
Denise Caswell, another paraprofessional from Templeton, always wanted to be a teacher but stopped pursuing her dream because it was too difficult to juggle driving to campus and paying for classes while working two jobs to pay the bills.
Caswell, who moved from Mexico to the United States when she was around 5, said she was the only one of her five siblings to go to college. When she gets her teaching license, she wants to work in the district’s Spanish immersion program.
“My whole family is really proud of me,” she said. “My dad keeps telling everyone, ‘My daughter is going back to school’.”
Lack of diversity in MCCSC schools
At MCCSC, the percentage of students of color exceeds the percentage of teachers of color.
About 75% of MCCSC students in the 2020-21 school year were white, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Recent data requested from the department showed that 93% of teachers are white.
About 6% of students were black, 6% were Hispanic, and 5% were Asian in the 2020-21 school year. Recent data shows that MCCSC employs approximately 1.5% certified black teachers, 2% Asian teachers, and 2.5% Hispanic teachers.
In Templeton, where Carey works, about 10% of students in the 2020-21 school year were black. These students need to feel like they belong, she said, especially in a state where most communities are predominantly white and often conservative.
“We don’t see that representation in a rural area like Bloomington,” she said. “Bloomington is diverse, and people always say it’s very open-minded and things like that. But really, we’re in southern Indiana.
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Finding more people of color to hire can be a difficult task, Carey said, but the path to the licensing program is a good start.
The company will continue to host career fairs for teachers and support staff and hopes to fund another path to the licensure cohort in the future, Turmail said.
Carey encouraged others who could increase the diversity of MCCSC’s teaching ranks to apply to work in the district, especially if an opportunity such as the bachelor’s degree program was available to them.
“Their light is needed,” she said.
Coping with the teacher shortage
MCCSC isn’t the only school district struggling with a teacher shortage.
Many school districts, including MCCSC, are in constant need of math and science teachers, Turmail said. But in recent years, dozens of schools across the state have also reported candidate shortages in language arts, world languages, art and music, education special education and English learning positions, among others.
For years, teachers across the state have pleaded for more respect, higher pay and smaller class sizes. They fought laws that threatened their ability to teach openly about race, gender and religion. They have been particularly stretched by the pandemic and the resulting loss of learning.
Across the state, schools are exploring new ways to hire new teachers quickly. Others are trying a similar route to licensure programs, while many are also allowing emergency licenses that get new hires into the classroom as soon as possible. Some offer current teachers the opportunity to earn degrees in new subjects. Some are trying to hire more paraprofessionals to fill in the gaps.
MCCSC is still hiring teachers for all subjects and all grade levels, Turmail said.
Contact Herald-Times reporter Christine Stephenson at [email protected]