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Simmons College And JCPS Partner To Attract Teachers Of Color

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Simmons College is partnering with Jefferson County Public Schools to offer a new course for students interested in a career in teaching. As the only historically black college in Louisville, Simmons is uniquely positioned to help build JCPS's teacher diversity by appealing to African-American students who may be weighing teaching as a profession.

"This is our partnering with JCPS to use our network as an HBCU to reach out to the community and help bring strong teaching candidates into the system," said Chris Caldwell, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Simmons College.

Currently, about 12 percent of JCPS teachers are black, compared to about 35 percent of students.

Simmons College will offer a Transition to Teaching program this fall, with the ultimate goal of boosting those numbers.

"JCPS has recognized that they do not have the diversity they want to have in their instructors," Caldwell said. "And multiple studies have shown that a key predictor of success in public education is a student having an opportunity to study with teachers who look like them."

The Transition to Teaching program will have two components — one course for undergraduate students to expose them to teaching as a career, and an evening class for continuing education students who would serve as auxiliary teachers in JCPS while completing the coursework.

Auxiliary teachers are long-term substitute teachers who are not yet certified to teach. As continuing education students at Simmons College, students interested in the evening class would already need to have a college degree.

"This is an opportunity for students who are not enrolled in an education program or have a degree in education to get a hands-on, one year experience to see if this could be the job for them," said JCPS Communications Director Renee Murphy.

Caldwell said it's important to note that Simmons does not offer a degree in education, but the program could encourage students who had not yet considered a career in teaching to pursue further education.

"We believe many will discover a calling for teaching they never even knew they had,"  Murphy said.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.