Nebraska Teachers of Color Summit encourages engagement with diverse students

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is hosting its third annual Teachers of Color Summit.

It’s a way for Nebraska’s educators of color to connect with people who may have a similar experience in the field.

“All of us have room for growing and room for growth and learning,” said Amanda Morales, the coordinator of the event and an associate professor at UNL. “So my hope is that they come here and are re-inspired, energized, they leave with new strategies.”

More than 70 teachers and university students gathered for the first night of the summit on Friday.

It’s a free event with speakers on both Friday and Saturday.

“If you’ve spent much time navigating across the state, you would see that the student populations are very diverse, from all walks of life, all different types of backgrounds,” Morales said. “But our teaching population is still pretty historically, traditionally, currently predominately white female.”

Morales said even in colleges now, the majority of students going into education are white and female.

That’s why events like this one can help Nebraska’s teachers of color have a sense of community.

“Finding folks that look like you, talk like you, can connect to you on a cultural, deep level is sometimes difficult,” Morales said. “You’ll have teachers of color that are the only one in their building, sometimes the only one in the whole district.”

She said over the weekend, the main focus is how to use students’ backgrounds, languages and cultures in the classroom.

And behind it all will be instruction on how to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.

“Unfortunately, students of color are the most vulnerable students in our population, as far as test scores and achievement gaps, also known as an opportunity gap,” said Bianca Nightengale-Lee, a speaker at the summit. “So we need to have more conversations, real conversations about what it means pedagogically as educators to reach and teach those students that are the most vulnerable.”

By doing these summits, Morales said she wants to encourage the next generation of students of color to become teachers.

“I’m hopeful that this could be something they see as useful or powerful or meaningful, and to know that there is community,” she said.

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