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Kean University

College of Education Receives Grant to Create Diverse Teacher Pipeline for New Jersey Schools

Alex Guzman, wearing a blue suit, stands in front of a fireplace.

Assistant Professor Alex Guzman, Ed.D., is the principal investigator on the grant.

Kean University is working to recruit, train and place teachers from diverse backgrounds in three economically disadvantaged school districts across New Jersey through a new grant-funded program.

The College of Education initiative aims to create a continuous pipeline of teacher candidates from Black and brown communities and other underrepresented groups for Carteret, North Plainfield and Dunellen.

The program, which is funded by a $238,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Education’s Minority Teacher Development Program, seeks to identify and guide future teachers before they even enter college.

“We’ll start recruiting high school students of color, saying, ‘Hey, we want you to come to Kean,’” said Alex Guzman, Ed.D., assistant professor in Kean’s Department of Bilingual Education, TESOL and World Languages and principal investigator on the grant. “Then we’ll look at what Kean is doing for students of color in our programs, in terms of mentoring and preparation. Third, we’ll work with the district teams, and teachers of color in the districts, and assess what we’re doing to recruit and retain teachers of color.”

Research shows teachers of color help narrow the achievement gap for students of color and are highly rated by students of all races.

“We know there is a teacher shortage in the state and country overall, and the deficit of teachers has significantly increased in communities of color,” said Sancha K. Gray, Ed.D., Kean’s senior vice president for entrepreneurial education initiatives and acting dean of the College of Education. “Representation matters; having individuals who resemble you in the profession holds significant value, and with this program we can provide comprehensive support and get representation in front of students sooner rather than later.”

The project will recruit high school students of color to Tomorrow’s Teachers, a dual-enrollment program at Kean. Research-driven strategies will be used to inform recruitment and retention strategies for the students, as well as guide professional development approaches in each district.

Education leaders in the districts said they are excited to work with Kean, New Jersey’s urban research university.

"The university’s research strengths and expertise in recruitment and retention will complement our district’s work as we create an equitable and supportive educational landscape together,” said Michelle Aquino, Ed.D., superintendent of the North Plainfield School District.  

In Dunellen, Schools Superintendent Dan Ross said the program is an opportunity for “meaningful change.” 

“Through this grant, we hope to be able to support the development of teachers from underrepresented groups who can positively impact students across the state and become leaders in the field of education," Ross said.

The project will also address obstacles teachers face in completing preparatory programs by providing a stipend for clinical training, a plan proposed by Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., when he formerly served as state education commissioner.

“I am really delighted that our president spearheaded this idea,” Gray said. “That’s a significant obstacle to Black and brown people in poverty, and the stipend has been helpful in removing the challenge.” 

Guzman said he hopes the program will develop “preservice teachers who are competitive, well-trained and well-read on issues of equity and social justice” in the near future, with additional benefits in the years to come.

“In four to five years, I expect school district leaders throughout the state to come to us at Kean to help them examine their recruiting and retention efforts,” he said. “They will come to us for professional development and so we can do further research together.”