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Students Need Diversity Lesson, Says Nea Official

Although Idaho’s classrooms may reflect less cultural diversity than most, Idaho’s kids still need sensitivity to other races if they are going to survive and prosper as adults.

That’s the message Reginald Weaver, National Education Association vice president, brought to 50 Idaho teachers gathered in Post Falls to learn how to train others in diversity awareness.

“You may not see the differences in race that I see every day, but that doesn’t mean you ought not know about it because the children you serve, you don’t know where they are going to end up,” said Weaver, who has been teaching since the 1960s in Illinois.

He was elected NEA vice president in 1996 and is taking a three-year leave of absence from the classroom to lobby and volunteer for the organization representing 2.2 million teachers nationwide.

Educators from across the state, including 13 from Coeur d’Alene, spent three days in workshops, panel discussions and training sessions this week learning how to provide diversity training in their school districts.

“Unity and Diversity: Building Bridges to Equity,” featured Weaver and Bill Wassmuth, executive director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment in Seattle.

According to “Status of the American Public School Teacher,” an NEA study released in July, America’s student population is growing more diverse at the same time the nation’s teaching cadre is becoming more homogenous. Hispanic and Asian Americans are predicted to be the fastest-growing segments of the student population, but the survey of 1,325 public school teachers nationwide found that 74.4 percent are women and 90.7 percent are white.

School districts need to do a better job of seeking out minority teachers and administrators, Weaver said.

“Administrators will say: ‘Well we just can’t find them.’ But in fact if you want diversity you have to go to the colleges and university where those individuals are being trained,” Weaver said, referring to all-black and Native American teacher preparation programs.

“But don’t fall into that box that says the only people that can teach minority kids are minority people,” Weaver said. “We need people who are going to be sensitive to the needs of children regardless of color.”

, DataTimes

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