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January 22, 2018 10:10 PM

Pathway To Diversity

Sioux Falls

The Sioux Falls School District wants to have a staff that reflects its student body.   
A year ago, just 1 percent of the teaching staff was diverse. Right now, it's closer to 2 percent. 

 But a new initiative launching next school year hopes to help that number multiply.

"You know you can go out and recruit, but sometimes we miss what's right in front of us," said Assistant Superintendent Jamie Nold.

Nold is shifting his focus. 

 "Yet we have a wealth of talent right here within our own schools. We do train and educate people in all different kinds of backgrounds from health careers, to engineering, medical, the sciences, well why not teaching as well?," Nold said. 

The goal is to get more students interested in teaching... but not just any students. 

"We do have a diverse population from a variety of other countries that now call Sioux Falls home. So how do we help to incorporate some of that into our teaching staff, our work staff, so the students just feel comfortable with the schools that they're in?," said Nold. 

Nold says the answer lies from within. His new target... helping diverse students within the district to become the school's future teachers. 

Black and Hispanic students now make up nearly a quarter of the student population.  The teaching staff doesn't reflect that.  

"The representation of teachers compared to our student body is basically non-existent. On top of that, you have to consider also that the 2% is coming mainly from the teachers at Sonia Sotomayor. Basically, all of the diverse teachers are there," said New Technology High School teacher Dora Jung. 

Born and raised in Mexico, Jung says having more diverse teachers like herself is the key to student success. 

That's why she's helping lauch the Teacher Pathway Program for 11th and 12th graders during the 2018-2019 school year. 

The students have the opportunity to complete an internship at a local elementary school and receive college credit. 

"It's also important to see the students perform. And they will perform feeling included, feeling welcome; they need to see that they do have a very bright future set as an example from their teachers," Jung said. 

For Nold, it makes sense to pull from the diversity the district already has. 

"Obviously our students and our schools, we have a large number of students. So it isn't that we need to recruit everybody, we just need that handful of which five to six years will come back to our district," said Nold. 

While there's a long road ahead on the district's commitment to diversity, both Jung and Nold agree it's worth the wait. 

"They see that their teachers are successful professionals, then they too themselves, will be successful professionals," Jung said.

"It takes a few years because when you're working with high school juniors and seniors you may not see the fruits or that labor for five, six years down the road. But if we don't start sometime, we'll never see that. So if we can capitalize on that, I think it will benefit us greatly," said Nold.

Diversity in the district flows from the bottom up. Elementary schools are the most diverse while high schools are the least.

Nold said starting this initiative now will only benefit the students of the future.

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