SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah's population grows more diverse, education leaders say teachers from difference races, cultures and backgrounds benefit not only minority students, but the community as a whole.
However, the majority of teachers are still white, middle class women. The University of Utah's Urban Institute for Teacher Education is reaching out to a diverse group of individuals who may be interested in teaching.
"Everyone benefits in the sense that there's a respect and connection for every student in the classroom, with a range of teachers who represent students in their classrooms," said Mary Burbank, director of the institute.
Burbank said it helps minority students and the whole community to see the benefits, in addition to contributing in culture, history and language studies.
"So not only are more historically representative groups in classrooms as teachers, but those folks in particularly in the Latino population are members of the teaching force," she said. "We all benefit from that."
"We are really working with the districts to identify prospective teachers for the 'grow your own' concept, so that we do have teachers in our classrooms that represent our communities. That serves all kids and our communities well."
The university has partnered with Salt Lake Community College and five local school districts to award scholarships to high school students interested in studying teaching in hopes that teachers will more representative of the students they teach.
It started as an effort with the Salt Lake School District and has grown to include Jordan, Davis, Canyons and Granite school districts. Burbank said the program aims to identify prospective teachers while they're still in high school.
"We are really working with the districts to identify prospective teachers for the ‘grow your own' concept, so that we do have teachers in our classrooms that represent our communities," Burbank said. "That serves all kids and our communities well."
Recipients of the scholarship this year will be honored in May. They will first study at the Salt Lake Community College, then at the U of U.