LU, Sheboygan Area School District partner to diversify local classrooms
Lakeland University and the Sheboygan Area School District (SASD) are collaborating on a local solution to a national issue by home-growing more Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers for SASD.
The Kohler Teaching Scholars Program, made possible by funding from the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, will provide scholarship support that, coupled with Lakeland's Cooperative Education program, will create a unique, competitive pathway for Lakeland students to become SASD teachers and make a difference in the Sheboygan community.
The partnership addresses a need. Nationally, more than half of public school students are BIPOC, but only 18 percent of teachers are. Additionally, the number of education degrees earned dropped 15 percent from 2008 to 2015, according to a 2019 study by the Economic Policy Institute. The turnover rate for BIPOC teachers is 20-23 percent higher than for white teachers, according to an article in the February 2021 American School Board Journal.
In Sheboygan, approximately 49% of SASD students are BIPOC, while less than 3% of their teachers look like them.
Lakeland and SASD are piloting an immersion school through LU's Cooperative Education program at Wilson Elementary School in Sheboygan. Lakeland students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in teaching learn pedagogical techniques from SASD teachers.
In addition to attracting more students into Lakeland's education program through this initiative, Lakeland will offer scholarships to SASD juniors and seniors who are enrolled in dual credit courses that lead into Lakeland's education program. Lakeland hopes to graduate more than a dozen BIPOC students each year from its education program.
The Kohler Teaching Scholars Program will provide scholarship support that helps bridge the gap between Lakeland's Co-Op scholarship and Co-Op earnings.
"As a large school system, it is imperative that the Sheboygan Area School District is able to attract and retain quality educators who reflect the diversity of our student body. The ability to enhance our partnership with Lakeland University to grow and develop future teachers through the support provided by the Kohler Teacher Scholars Program will certainly help in achieving this goal," said Seth Harvatine, superintendent of the Sheboygan Area School District.
Lakeland has long been one of the most diverse residential campuses in the state as more than 12% of Lakeland's students are Black, with a total of one-third BIPOC students.
"We've learned through experience that many of our students remain in our community after graduation," said Lakeland President Beth Borgen. "They come to Lakeland, follow their career passions, develop a network of friends, often times meet their future spouse and find meaningful work.
"We believe our students are more likely to stay committed to this region than other teachers of diverse backgrounds who may not have a connection to our community."
Lakeland's Gentlemen and Ladies of Virtue organizations have provided BIPOC mentors for SASD students, giving LU students an opportunity to consider a career in education. LU recently revised its education program qualifications to ensure non-predictive standardized test barriers do not deter motivated students capable of mentoring youth and making a difference.
"With our Cooperative Education scholarship and the support of SASD and other community organizations, our students can earn wages while learning through relevant experience and pursuing their passion in education, while fulfilling a community need," Borgen said.