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WCE Hosts WTYP Brunch to Draw Students of Color to the Teaching Profession

Saturday, March 12, 2022

On March 19, WCE held a "Walk Towards Your Purpose” brunch to bring together teachers, faculty and students interested in a future teaching career. The event was designed to prioritize the importance of teachers of color and help build a more diverse teaching profession. Seventy-five educators and aspiring educators participated in event, held at the Watson College.

Candace Thompson, chair of WCE’s Department of Instructional Technology, Foundations and Secondary Education and Cindy Wiseman, WCE’s director of Professional Experiences hosted the event. 

Watson College Dean Van Dempsey and faculty member Denise Henning joined Wiseman in welcoming participants; Wilson Okello, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership delivered a keynote address; and Thompson shared an address titled, “Our Why.” Other highlights included presentations by Tre Woods, a student in WCE’s Secondary Education program, Darryle Watkins ’21, a first-year music teacher and Abeer Zayyad ’20, a second year kindergarten teacher.

“A year ago, Dr Candace Thompson and I embarked on an initiative to recruit teachers of color to our teaching profession,” Wiseman said in her remarks. “You may have heard this statistic - In NC alone, 50% of public-school students are black and brown, yet only 20% of teachers represent their students. The Walk Towards Your Purpose initiative – which began with a four-day symposium last summer and continues with the brunch today – is about opportunity. The incredible gift that teachers have to positively impact students’ lives is like no other gift. Across this room, our colleagues here today firmly believe that recruiting young people of color to teach in their communities is essential to changing the narrative of opportunities for all black and brown students.”  

Thompson challenged high school students to discover their “Why” in a passionate and poetic address.

“Why is a question, a purpose, an aspiration, and creative labor 

We celebrate your presence here today because you are the core of our why, the song of our what, the joyful answer to our how.  

I need you to hear me when I say this, and I offer it with my whole heart 

I love you 

I see myself and the people whom I have believed in and loved in you 

I see what the world can become through you 

So, we applaud you, sing your praises, and raise you up in wonder 

We are here to revel in your brilliance. Has anyone told you that you are brilliant? 

It is yours to claim, but you gotta reach for it, work towards it, tend it, find folks who will help you cultivate lest you get lost in the weeds and forget. 

Our why—the grown folks in the room—is to serve as cultivators of your brilliance and buffers of your shine.”

In conclusion, she said,

“So, tell me, young scholars, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? I’ll tell you this…it all begins with teachers.”

Participants described the event as informative, fun, “an amazing experience” and “super motivating.”

“I didn’t realize how important I was as a future black educator. It definitely sparked something in me to be a black educator,” one high school student said. A school principal who attended remarked, “This was an inspiring event. I enjoyed meeting and connecting with students and members of the education community. Please continue providing this opportunity for high school students in the fall and spring semesters.”

After the event, Thompson shared her favorite memories of the day.

“I loved watching the students walk in, some shyly, and be warmly greeted. Their eyes wandering the bright airy space of the atrium, made beautiful by them and for them,” she said. “I was moved to see them touring the building with their teachers and principals. We were all celebrating the brilliance of black and brown young people. I thought, this is where we begin to grow educators.

Thompson and Wiseman are committed to the WTYP initiative. Future plans include mentoring students who attended the 2021 symposium and the 2022 brunch. Plans are also underway for additional recruitment and networking events during the 2022-23 academic year.

The team is also working closely with members of the Educators of Color Network, launched by WCE’s Professional Development System Office earlier this year. Educators who share Watson’s goal of building a more diverse teacher workforce are invited to participate. For more information, see the upcoming event, Educators of Color Network Meeting – May 5.

View more photos on the Watson College of Education Facebook page >