Educators make teachers of color a priority

Panelists discuss survival skills and strategies at the Teachers of Color Summit sponsored by the Florida Education Association.

By Jeri Yonder, Contributor

ORLANDO — For Fedrick Ingram, understanding the value of role models, and being one himself made the information learned from the Teachers of Color Summit a guide to improving teacher and student performance in Florida public schools. 

One hundred teachers and aspiring teachers heard strategies, survival skills, and the importance of their presence in Florida classrooms from their colleagues, experts and celebrities. 

Ingram was a black male music teacher and teacher of the year in Dade County. He was a rarity in the classroom. Black male teachers are in high demand nationwide and central to the recruiting effort to remedy a shortage of 3000 teachers in Florida schools. 

 “There is a sense of urgency that has to be addressed.  We have a teacher shortage in this state, and that’s compounded among teachers of color. Brown and black children should see people like themselves in the classroom, just as I did. And teachers of color must understand that they are essential to paving the path to success for those children. They are valued. Like all teachers, they are a prized asset,” according to Ingram, the first African American president of the Florida Education Association. 

The American Federation of Teachers and the Student Florida Education Association joined Ingram’s initiative along with panelists Johanna Lopez, Orange County School Board, OCCTA member Bess Georges, teacher, FYRE, Hillsborough CTA Naomi Joy, musician, teacher, Orange CCTA Member Ricky Jean Francois, former NFL Player and entrepreneur.

FEA launched an aggressive strategy to get public school teachers and staff raises. A day before the opening of the legislative session, Ingram, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and FEA leadership lead a massive march and rally on the steps of the Old Capitol. 

The teacher’s union and lawmakers have made positive progress since, but Ingram is not satisfied. He’s held listening tours throughout the state, and now the Teacher of Color Summit will add to the cachet of evidence that Florida public schools need proper funding to deal with the future of Florida’s children

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