There’s a lot that makes Loudoun County a great place to live, work, play, and learn. Among them is the diverse makeup of its residents. In just the past couple of years, Loudoun County Public Schools underwent a historic shift to a student population that, for the first time, is no longer majority white. In fact, students who are Asian, Hispanic, Black, and/or Pacific Islander now make up 57% of the student body.
That diversity gives us a lot to celebrate. But it also highlights an area with room for improvement: the racial make up of the county’s educators has not kept pace with the changing demographics. This is something that school system leaders and several community partners are working to improve through various avenues, and the Loudoun Education Foundation has joined the effort.
This month, LEF announces its Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Scholarship, dedicated to supporting aspiring educators who are from populations under-represented in the profession. Graduating high school seniors and LCPS classified staff members whose employment would improve the diversity of the teacher workforce are eligible. It provides up to $12,000 toward college tuition. (More details below.)
Tara Hewan, a Loudoun County Public Schools parent and former teacher, can attest to the importance of a diverse team of educators from both her personal and professional experience. Hewan grew up in a small, rural community, where she was the only Black student in her class from sixth-grade through high school. Most of the Black, Asian, or Hispanic adults that she interacted with were bus drivers, custodians, or cafeteria workers.
“They were some of the hardest working people I’d ever met, but it just underlined who held the power in that community,” she said. “Even as a young child, I knew the importance of having at least a few teachers who looked like me in the classroom.”
She went on to attend Hampton University, a Historically Black College University (HBCU). “Suddenly, I saw my experiences, my culture, represented in the student body, the curriculum, the faculty, and in school leadership. It helped build my confidence in and out of school.”
Now, as an educational specialist, Hewan has seen the research play out in classrooms throughout Northern Virginia. Studies show that, in schools with a racially diverse teaching staff, there is a greater representation of Hispanic and Black students in gifted programs, an increase in attendance and a decrease in suspensions among the same population of students. In fact, the research indicates that students of all racial backgrounds benefit from a diverse team of classroom teachers and administrators.
“You see the benefits in every marker of success: a decrease in drop-out rates, decrease in discipline disproportionality, an increase in teachers’ expectations for students of color,” Hewan said. “That all translates to students believing in themselves. And if a kid believes in themselves, their academic success is going to be higher.”
We at the Loudoun Education Foundation want to equip more students of diverse backgrounds to earn their teaching certification and return to teach in Loudoun County Public Schools. Right now, thanks to funding from Apple Federal Credit Union and the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, the Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Scholarship will provide $12,000 scholarships to two applicants, either graduating seniors or LCPS classified employees.
Our goal is to raise another $12,000 to fund a third scholarship. This is our focus throughout the next six weeks, as we lead up to Give Choose, a 24-hour giving campaign for Loudoun County nonprofits held on March 29. If a diverse faculty is something you want to support, consider donating to the scholarship at GiveChoose.org/LEF.