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Watson College News

Watson College Hosts Events to Promote Diversity in Teaching

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Deanna Townsend-Smith, director of the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity was the featured speaker at the Educators of Color Network meeting held November 17 at the Watson College. The Center focuses on policy, research & advocacy, and serves as a hub to identify and connect organizations and networks, like the EOC Network, that are working to address issues of equity, access and opportunity in education across North Carolina.

Dr. Townsend-Smith said the Center’s work is grounded in three questions: ‘What? So what? And, Now what?’ and a key focus of their work is to help other organizations move from conversations around equity to action.

The Watson College Professional Development System Office launched the Educators of Color Network in January. The group is comprised of current and retired P-12 teachers and school leaders, university faculty and students who work collaboratively to envision and facilitate activities to recruit students of color into the teaching profession, retain current educators of color and engage school partners in advocacy efforts to establish a broader, more diverse network of professionals.

More than 150 educators from across the state are participating in the EOC Network.

The group hosts two meetings each semester, and work groups meet throughout the year to plan and implement initiatives related to the Network’s three core areas of focus: recruitment, retention and advocacy. Planning for a Spring 2023 Summit is also underway.

PDS partnership teachers, school administrators, retired educators, WCE faculty members, current Watson students and others are invited to participate in the EOC Network. For more information, or to register for upcoming events, please visit the EOC Network website.

‘Walk Towards Your Purpose’ Initiative

WCE’s focus on promoting diversity in the teaching profession continues to flourish with several other initiatives including Walk Towards Your Purpose: Becoming a Teacher of Color. On October 18, a Walk Towards Your Purpose dinner brought together a multigenerational group of classroom teachers, faculty, and current and prospective Watson College students to share experiences, perspectives, and ideas around an exploration of questions like why teach, why now, and the importance of being/becoming a teacher of color.

Candace Thompson, Interim Associate Dean for Engagement, Professional Learning and Scholarship, and Cindy Wiseman, Director of Professional Experiences, hosted the event. Watson College Dean Van Dempsey and UNCW Chief Diversity Officer Donyell Roseboro joined the group for the evening. 

“Dr. Thompson reminded guests that we are part of an incredible historical legacy of teachers of color who understood that a commitment to justice and equity are the heart of teaching,” Wiseman said. “The fruits of their labor continue to make our work possible and necessary.

In reflecting after the event, Ms. Wiseman shared that she continues to be fueled by the energy of teacher candidates as they connect with current teachers in the field. They share their passion and excitement about teaching and understand the need for increasing the number of teachers of color, she said. Feedback from the event included the following comments from current Watson College students: 

“This was so much fun! I'm really glad I got to come to this event, and I so appreciate you all putting it on! I really look forward to staying connected with UNCW after I graduate, especially for this initiative.”

“It was an amazing experience. So fulfilling to meet with current students, current teachers, and retired educators as well.

The current classroom teachers who attended the event and who have supported this initiative from the start also shared: 

“I believe the atmosphere and the topics of conversation foster dialogue and networking among professionals-- necessary ingredients for the work we agreed to take part in. I continue to be impressed with the call to action and the emphasis that is given to creating spaces where Black and Brown brilliance is highlighted. I am grateful to be a part of this work.

“The dinner was exactly what I needed to reboot and refocus. Sometimes it is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated in the classroom, but when we all come together to celebrate what we do, why we do it, and how we put our community first, I am quickly reminded that I am not alone. These events truly do build camaraderie among professionals while also forming a network for rising teachers. Thank you.”

The Walk Towards Your Purpose: Becoming a Teacher of Color initiative was introduced in Spring 2021 to bring together teachers, faculty and students interested in a future teaching career. Events designed to prioritize the importance of teachers of color and help build a more diverse teaching profession are held each semester.  The next WTYP event will be held in the spring 2023 semester in collaboration with WCE Educators of Color Initiative. Details to come!