Editor’s Note: This article features a program being launched in one of counties the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership supports. If you have a program that is supporting the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s goal of being in the top 20% of metro areas for minority income equality in Elkhart, Marshall or St. Joseph Counties in Indiana and Berrien or Cass in Michigan, please share it with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
As school corporations in Elkhart County see the number percentage of minority students outnumber Caucasian students, the teaching faculty does not reflect the diverse population of those schools.
Currently, teachers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups account for ten percent or fewer teachers in Elkhart County partner districts.
The disparity is problematic, as researchers have found students of color do better when at least one of their teachers is of the same race.
With students and teachers spending an average of 1,000 hours in each other’s company each year, it is clear that the relationships built during this time can either launch students into academic success or set them back for years to come.
A new partnership between Goshen College, Elkhart Community Schools, Goshen Community Schools, Concord Community Schools, and Bethany Christian School is attempting to solve the disparity between the increasingly colorful student population and the largely Caucasian pool of teachers.
Dr. Elisa Zwier, Teach Elkhart County program director, said the program has been attractive to both recent high school graduates and non-traditional students, which make up about half the pool of applicants.
“We are also catching students who have always had that dream to teach. Teaching is a vocation. You have to have that fire in your bones, for making a difference in your community, for children, and youth,” she said. ”Some of these students have always had that dream. They are reconnecting to that dream when they hear about the program.”
Teach Elkhart County is not a scholarship program. It is a program that provides incentives and support to students who are racially/ethnically diverse who are from Elkhart County in order for them to become teachers in the Elkhart, Goshen, Concord school systems, or at Bethany Christian School.
Programs like Teach Elkhart County are called “grow your own” and are a part of a movement to cultivate local teachers.
Teach Elkhart County provides the following supports and incentives:
- Guaranteed Interview & Priority Job Placement: The four partner school districts (Concord, Elkhart, Goshen, and Bethany), in addition to Goshen College, will assist participants in finding a job upon graduation in an Elkhart County school
- Continuous Support: Through academic support and personalized guidance, during college and into their first year of teaching, through one-on-one coaching. This equates to six years of relationships and support to help participants be successful.
- Exclusive Bonuses: Graduates receive a $3,000 hiring bonus and additional incentives in year two and three ($1,000 per year) along with leadership opportunities as a Teach EC Ambassador.
- College & Career Success: Created through the creation of a community that is invested in students and their journey to becoming a teacher.
The program will launch this fall. Currently, there are several students who have expressed interest in the program. “Sometimes, I worry that we’ll have too many students and I’ll have to go find more money. Which will be a good problem to have,” Zwier said.
Prospective students who are interested in learning more can request information on the Teach Elkhart County website.