Next Gen Teachers seeks to increase number of certified teachers in Michigan and teacher diversity

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Next Gen Teachers participants

The Wayne State University College of Education recently offered a new summer program to address the shortage of certified teachers in Michigan. Through Next Gen Teachers, nearly 20 young people — most of them high school sophomores, juniors and seniors — participated in a two-week, non-residential experience aimed at exposing students to the teaching profession while preparing them for college.  

Roland Sintos Coloma, assistant dean for the Division of Teacher Education, said the college hopes to create a pipeline of home-grown teachers by seeking out and supporting high school students who aspire to be teachers.   

“Our goal is to help potential educators become career and college ready,” he said. “We want to spark and sustain interest in education careers with the hope that these students will attend Wayne State, graduate and ultimately fill the vacancies in local school districts.”  

As an added incentive, students who complete the program can apply to the university for free. They are also eligible to receive a $500 scholarship through the Raise.Me platform upon their admission to the College of Education at WSU.   

Ferndale High School senior Grace Harper, an aspiring special education teacher, said she enjoyed the Next Gen program. 

“I want to have a positive impact on kids’ lives,” she said. “I liked hearing stories from actual teachers and learning about the ways educators make a difference in students’ lives.” 

Participants engaged with Wayne State education faculty, staff and students through a variety of teaching workshops, during which they explored the benefits and challenges of education careers. In “How to Become an Urban Educator,” students learned how to deal with community, diversity and culture inside the classroom as part of the college’s mission to increase diversity, inclusion and equity in schools. 

College of Education student Sterling Williams
Sterling Williams (l) and Grace Harper (r)

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, people of color represent about 20% of the teaching workforce in elementary and secondary schools, while youth of color comprise more than 50% of the student population in that environment. 

“Our goal was to bring together a diverse group of students who represent the student population in the schools,” said Coloma. “Research shows that increasing teacher diversity benefits all students. When students have teachers who look like them, their test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment tend to increase. Participants learned that they can make a difference in the lives of their students by improving access to quality education for all children.”  

Sterling Williams, a Southfield Christian High School graduate who began pursuing a degree in secondary education at Wayne State this fall, said the lack of diversity in teaching played a major role in his career choice.  

“I had one or two teachers who looked like me my entire school career,” he said. “I want to positively influence other students the way they impacted me. I particularly want to make a difference in the lives of high school freshman, many of whom are trying to determine who they are and where they fit in.” 

Students also explored campus resources and attended field trips. Jeff Lisiecki, program coordinator and undergraduate recruitment coordinator, said the college not only wanted to encourage students to attend Wayne State and become teachers but also promote community and a sense of belonging. 

“We had a wonderfully diverse group of students with dynamic personalities,” he said. “Although most of them didn’t know one another, many of them became friends, and some may have begun building lifelong friendships.” 

Working in teams, participants completed projects focused on their vision of becoming an urban educator and shared them with parents, faculty and staff at a final reception. Students received certificates and digital badges acknowledging their accomplishment. 

Next Gen Teachers participants at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Williams, who wants to teach English, said the program helped him understand what it takes to be a successful college student and an educator. 

“The Next Gen Teachers program helped me get acclimated to campus and identify university resources I can use to be successful. Workshops helped me understand what it takes to be a teacher and how to maintain my physical and mental health and passion for education,” he said. “Wayne State was my first choice. I love its location and the fact that it is constantly evolving and growing. I am excited about being here.” 

For more information about Next Gen Teachers, visit go.wayne.edu/nextgenteachers.  

To learn more about the Raise.me program at Wayne State, visit raise.me or contact media@raise.me.