Our Unyielding Commitment to Diversity & Inclusiveness
As a Mexican-American woman, race and identity are front and center for me every day. My husband Jeremy is African-American, and together, we’re raising four phenomenal boys. We are working every day for a better world — one that will fully embrace them, and all children.
A critical part of reaching that world is acknowledging how far we are from it: our country has a long history of racism and oppression, and working against it means we must all step up each day.
I’m proud that, at Teach For America, we continue to expand and evolve our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. Race, class, and privilege intersect with every aspect of our work for students and communities. Every one of us needs to take responsibility for this, and together, we must recommit to diversity and inclusiveness every single day.
So as we develop and evolve our organizational strategy, diversity and inclusiveness needs to remain at the center of all that we do. We expect all of our staff members to embrace this priority fully. While a central office for diversity has advanced our efforts this year in important ways, it has also made it easier for us as individual staff members and teams to not take full ownership of the priority.
We’ve tried different structures over the years to support our increasingly ambitious diversity goals and aspirations (including previous iterations of chief diversity offices), and different approaches have made sense for different phases of the work. Looking forward, it’s become clear that in our new, more regionally-focused model, we need to make another shift. The streams of diversity and inclusiveness work must sit clearly with all teams, and specific teams will own, lead and be held accountable for their separate areas of D&I expertise.
This shift is in no way a dialing back — in fact, it’s a step in increasing our focus, and Dr. Irma McClaurin and her team will help with the transition. We will continue to work on recruiting diverse talent, to cultivate and strengthen our community through our Corps Member of Color Summits, Affinity Gatherings, The Collective (our group for alumni of color), and to continuously improve our diversity curriculum and training for corps members. The shift we’re making will accelerate our progress by decentralizing our efforts, moving the capacity and ownership to the teams that will be implementing them, instead of with a central group of individuals focused on diversity work.
For example, our Program team, which leads our pre-service training and directly supports regions in ongoing corps member development, will lead our culturally relevant pedagogy work. They’ll also manage our diversity curriculum and framework for corps members, and regional affinity-based engagements. Our Human Assets team will ensure that we continue to recruit exceptional, diverse talent to our staff, that our hiring and talent strategies are fair and equitable, that our managers demonstrate cultural competence, and that our workplace is inclusive for all staff members. Our Community Initiatives team will prioritize building external partnerships with other groups that share our goals. They’ll also carry forward our commitment to support corps members teaching under DACA, the federal work permit for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. And our regions will be leading the charge on this work in ways that are immersed in their local contexts.
Put simply, diversity is embedded in everything we do and all that we are. We are the largest, most diverse provider of teachers for low-income communities in this country. Roughly half of our corps members are people of color and one in three are the first in their families to graduate from college. And more than ever, we are committed to helping them provide an empowering education for their students. We know that great teachers focus on personal growth and academic growth in tandem, helping our children develop social and cultural consciousness and access as they learn. And as a community, we will celebrate the strengths of our students and honor their unique assets.
We have a long way to go and we will never stop striving to improve. Ultimately, that’s what this takes — we can’t be complacent, even when it’s difficult. We will make the tough changes, risk the mistakes, and keep doing the hard, constant work of diversity and inclusiveness each day.