Sam Houston Elementary School Pre-K teacher Lataka Foster said she understands the impact minority teachers can have from several perspectives.

Foster recalled beginning her teaching career alongside Sam Houston first grade teacher Tiffany McHenry about 15 years ago when the Wilson County Civic League housed a Pre-K program. The duo worked as teacher and assistant in the class.

The location of the center — East Market Street — gave more access for children in Inman Court and surrounding areas that have a high minority population.

“It was more of a family type thing, instead of going to school and seeing another teacher type of thing,” Foster said. “It felt like they trusted us with stuff that you probably wouldn’t normally see.”

Foster said the social connection made a positive impact on performance in the classroom.

Within the Lebanon district, there are nine minority teachers in elementary schools and five in middle schools among nearly 300 classroom teachers, accompanying one minority in an administration role.

In Wilson County Schools, there are 44 minority certified teachers — about 4 percent of the teacher population based on the latest Tennessee Report Card — while minority students account for about 21 percent of the student population.

A Tennessee Department of Education report also noted that in half of Tennessee’s 147 school districts, 95 percent of teachers were white, 40 districts had no African American teachers and 50 districts had no Hispanic teachers.

A new Cumberland University scholarship will try to increase the number of minority teachers within the state.

The Minority Teacher Scholarship, only available to Tennessee residents, will be available for the 2020-2021 academic year. Minority students wanting to pursue a teaching degree at both the undergraduate and graduate levels can apply for it.

The undergraduate scholarship will pay for up to 65 percent of the tuition for a bachelor’s degree and up to 60 percent at the master’s degree level.

Any minority student with a high school GPA of 2.5 is eligible regardless of standardized test scores. Applicants will meet with a panel of Cumberland faculty to determine eligibility.

“Studies show that students benefit from learning from those with diverse backgrounds,” said Eric Cummings, Dean of the School of Humanities, Education and the Arts. “Teachers are some of the most influential people in the lives of students, and diversifying our pool of educators will directly benefit their future students and better prepare them for life in a multicultural society.”

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