Nearly half of the nation’s students – 44 percent – are students of color, but only one of every six teachers is a teacher of color. To help recruit, support and retain individuals of color as K-12 public school teachers, the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color offers scholarships to to ensure that greater numbers of highly qualified teachers of color enter public school classrooms around the country.
This year, the Fund awarded fellowships to two Wesleyan seniors: Randyl Wilkerson ’12 and Nastassia Williams ’12.
Wilkerson, an English major, and Williams, an African American Studies major, were chosen through a competitive selection process. They will each receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s degree in education, preparation to teach in a high-need public school, support throughout a three-year teaching commitment, and guidance toward teaching certification.
Wilkerson, of Chicago, Ill., is a member of Wesleyan’s AIDS Sexual Health Awareness Group and is the university’s campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America. She also volunteers as a sexual education teacher for Connecticut high school students. Wilkerson is a poet with a published collection, Astrobiology. She is a member of the Wesleyan Poetry Slam Team and is a winner of the Best Persona Piece Award, National Poetry Slam. She’s minoring in American Studies.
Wilkerson will use her fellowship to attend graduate school through the Boston Teacher Residency, and receive a M.A. in education.
“After I get my master’s, I want to teach in Boston Public Schools for a few years to understand how best to serve inner city youth today,” she says. “But ultimately, I want to start an enrichment program teaching youth to think and write critically, while empowering them through acts of creativity. I want to help public school students develop their own voices and gain a sense of agency.”
Williams, of the Bronx, N.Y., works as a tutor for Middletown’s Traverse Square, an organization for elementary students. She also is a SAT tutor with the Let’s Get Ready program and is currently learning how to deejay. She’s minoring in English.
Williams has already applied to the Bard College Master of Arts Teaching Program, the Boston Teacher Residency and the Newark-Montclair Urban Teaching Residency.
“I’d like to earn a master’s degree in teaching and probably teach English at the middle school or high school level,” she says. “And with the fellowship, I will complete the program and continue to work in a public school in an urban or rural high-needs area.”
Current trends indicate that by the year 2020, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of five percent of the total teacher force, while the percentage of students of color in the K-12 system will likely near 50 percent. This Fellowship offers an opportunity to ensure that greater numbers of highly qualified teachers of color enter public school classrooms around the country.