BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) – The very first cohort of students are set to graduate from the Urban Teacher Academy (UTA) at McKinley High School in Buffalo.
Over the past four years, four high school students from McKinley High School have embarked on their journey together, vowing to be future teachers when the UTA joined the UTA when it was unveiled in late 2017.
Many minority students say they want more teachers who are like them and who better understand their cultural backgrounds.
The UTA is a partner of the State of Buffalo. All four students successfully completed 12 credit hours in college and were accepted to attend Buffalo State to study education this fall.
“I want to be a teacher at Buffalo School because I want to be there for my students,” Shamila Shabani explained.
Shabani, born in Congo, is originally from South Africa. She says it’s important for students to see diversity in the classroom.
“I want to have an impact on my students. I want them to use me as a role model. I want them to look back and see that I made a difference in their life, ”explained Shabani.
Deborah Perez is Hispanic and she tells me that she wants to be able to be a bilingual teacher in the city.
“Why do you want to be a teacher at Buffalo School?” Buckley asked.
“Because I would like to give back to my community and help them become better people – a better version of themselves,” Perez replied. “If they see me as a Spanish teacher, they will know that they are not alone, that they have someone to connect with. “
The concept of UTA is to “develop ours” in the hope of generating more future teachers of color for schools in the city.
Here’s a breakdown of the number of minority students in the Buffalo School District versus the number of minority teachers:
Total number of students of color in the Buffalo Public School District:
Black or African America
Hispanic or Latino in city schools
In the 2018-19 school year, there were 3,080 teachers at Buffalo Public School, but only 440 represent non-white teachers, or 14.3%.
Statewide, in the 2018-19 school year, 80% of New York State teachers were white, only 8% black, and 7% Hispanic.
“It is very important to teach children that there is no defined culture in education,” Desire Tubbeins said.
Tubbeins says she originally wanted to become a medical examiner, but UTA created a new opportunity for her and now she devotes herself to teaching.
“It kind of opened a door for me and I didn’t even realize this was such an amazing opportunity that I had and I’m like – you know – I can do it – I could be a teacher,” Tubbeins said.
“I just had an epiphany – like this is what I really want to do,” Kaleena Kenner recalls.
Kenner says she has always enjoyed being around children, but what convinced her to pursue a career as a teacher happened while watching a video in a college course on special education and the integration of students with special needs into regular classes.
Kenner says teaching urban children as a woman of color will be very important.
“It’s really important because once you see that there are other people like you, you’ll feel more comfortable – if you don’t feel comfortable – you won’t learn. not to your full potential because you’re always worried about something, ”Kenner replied. “Education is an integral part of life, especially in an urban area, as many students fail to get out of this urban area. “
UTA is one of more than 30 vocational and technical education programs available in Buffalo public schools.
Program director Robert Harris says they will be expanded to help students make career choices.
“We have a PTECH program with Tesla in South Park,” Harris noted. “We have police, fire and legal studies at East High School which will be more community-oriented. “
“How proud are you of these four young women? Buckley asked.
“Totally proud – I have a lot of pride in my heart because it shows that the programs are working. It shows that Buffalo Schools has something great to offer, ”replied Harris.
When students graduate from Buff State, they will be given a preference for jobs in the Buffalo School District and must commit to working four to five years in schools in the city.
The UTA also has strong support from former Buffalo Bill Preston Brown. He kept his promise to support the students of the Urban Teacher Academy at McKinley High School.
The program caught Brown’s attention when he was with the Bills. At the end of 2017, he adopted the first UTA class and surprised them with iPads. Tubbeins received one that day.