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K-State Today

February 15, 2021

College of Education offers national virtual conference on attracting, retaining diverse teachers

Submitted by Patrice Scott

The Kansas State University College of Education and its Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy are co-hosting a virtual conference March 5-6 to address one of teaching's most critical needs: attracting and retaining students of color to the profession.

"Beyond Envisioning Equity: Situating Teacher of Color Voices" is a two-day virtual event featuring national scholars, education practitioners and members of the larger educational community. The conference will highlight intersectionality; higher education recruitment, advising and retention; recruiting, inducting, mentoring and retaining teachers of color; preparing white educators for pedagogical action; and education policy.

The conference is designed for higher education faculty and administrators, student affairs professionals, academic advisors, policymakers, K-12 administrators, teachers and school counselors, members of community organizations and educational foundations, and postsecondary students. The fee for undergraduate and graduate students is $29, and the fee is $99 for professionals. For full conference details and registration, visit bit.ly/Beyond-Envisioning.

Conference speakers will seek to inform efforts to initiate and sustain change in schools and communities by engaging attendees in critical conversations and providing actionable recommendations and resources for next steps.

Among the featured speakers are Travis Bristol, University of California, Berkeley, whose work in urban education explores the professional pathways and experiences of Black male teachers; Davis Dixon, Hampton University, and Ashley Griffin, Bowie State University, whose collaborative work explores why teachers of color leave and what schools, districts and states can do to disrupt teacher turnover; Belinda Flores, University of Texas, whose work emphasizes career pathways for bilingual, Latina/o teachers and the development of culturally efficacious teachers and mentors; Felicia Mensah, Teachers College, Columbia University, whose work highlights racial literacy in teacher preparation programs to prepare educators to address issues of race and racism; Michael Hansen, Brookings Institution and Brown Center on Education Policy, whose research explores the impact of teacher diversity on student success; Rita Kohli, University of California, Riverside, whose scholarship illuminates the racialized experiences of K-12 teachers of color as they resist, reimagine, and reclaim education; and José Medina, José Medina: Educational Solutions, whose experiences and work surround intersectionality and language development for emergent bilinguals.

The conference also will feature the debut of the K-State College of Education's latest documentary, "Besitos," which provides an inside look at how the BESITOS — or Bilingual/Bicultural Education Students Interacting to Obtain Success — recruitment and retention program model that ran from 1999-2013 provided a gateway to higher education for more than 200 students and graduated more than 100 teachers of color who now serve and lead in schools across Kansas and beyond.

Through multiple conference panel presentations, BESITOS alumni across Kansas will further explore how the program and their own identities and experiences as K-16 teachers and administrators have informed their current advocacy efforts. Among panelists are the five educators featured in the documentary: Jorge Estrella, program director at Dodge City Community College, and Maria Ortiz-Smith, education consultant at Southwest Plains Regional Service Center, Dodge City; Betty Sanchez, primary teacher at Village Elementary School, Emporia; Julia Morales, instructional coach at Florence Wilson Elementary School, Garden City; and Margarita Alcantara, a math teacher at Olathe North High School.

Socorro Herrera, executive director of the Center for Intercultural and Multicultural Advocacy, sees this conference as an opportunity for all those involved in equity work to focus on the urgent need to increase the representation, validation, and elevation of teachers of color in our educational spaces.

"Listening to the voices of scholars and educators of color brings truth to power," Herrera said. "An honest look at what is and is not working, and for whom, will support our united efforts to revision and recreate PK-12 classrooms for the future. We are living in a momentous era of great potential; now is the time to act and be part of the change."

Herrera's more than 25 years at K-State has allowed her to promote the recruitment, retention and preparation of teachers of color and white teacher allies. The BESITOS recruitment and retention program model provided a gateway to higher education for more than 200 students and graduated more than 100 teachers of color who now serve and lead in schools across Kansas and beyond.

Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, said programs such as BESITOS and Call Me MISTER, the national program K-State adopted in 2016 to attract men of color to the teaching profession, are evidence of the college's pledge to increase the number of teachers of color in Kansas schools.

"Our college has been a leader in both advocacy and action in relation to attracting underrepresented populations to the teaching profession," Mercer said. "The Call Me MISTER program, our 'Besitos' documentary about its success and impact, and now, this equity conference are the latest examples of our longstanding commitment to diversity in education so that students can be anything they want to be — and hopefully, it will inspire many of them to be teachers."