Maine is still the whitest state in the nation, but since the late 1990s, the demographics of the City of Portland have changed. Refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers have settled in significant numbers in the city – despite the severe cold winters! In Portland, 34% of the student population speaks a language other than English at home. 22% of students in Portland are classified as English Language Learners (ELL). It’s time for me to ask young people of color in Maine to step up and consider becoming teachers.
When it comes to the educators in our Portland schools, the teachers do not mirror the diversity of the student body. Yet research shows that teachers of color positively impact student outcomes. They have higher expectations for students of color than white teachers do, and children consistently have shown that they rise to meet the expectations of their teachers.
Choosing to become a teacher is one of the greatest gifts a person can give their community, their country, humanity in general. Becoming a teacher of color and making a difference in the lives of students of color is a high calling. Diversifying the teaching staff can help break the cycle of poverty and poor living conditions that people of color routinely live with. Children need role models. They need to see people like them teaching in the schools. The Portland Public Schools are making an effort to train young people of color for careers in education through programs like “Teach Portland”, but change is slow to come.
To my young readers: Think what it would mean to become a teacher! You would inspire others, make a difference in the lives of young people, influence the future – and continuously engage in learning yourself. In some cases, depending on the context, the Department of Education might even forgive your student loans. And don’t forget that many educators do not work during the summers! To make a big difference in the lives of others, I encourage you to consider teaching.