Andover’s Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) held a talk on Friday, November 1, to raise awareness for its work in education. While Andover’s branch was founded in 1990 by faculty emeriti Kelly Wise, former Instructor in English, the IRT operates nationwide. It aims to “[address] the diversity gap in graduate school[a], the teaching profession, and educational leadership pipelines,” according to the IRT website.
Bridget Tsemo, Instructor in English, works for the IRT as an advisor to graduate school candidates and helps them write their application statements of purpose. She hopes that the talk allowed students to realize that they have support and allies on campus.
Tsemo said, “I took away that there are people of color that are interested in retaining and recruiting valuable students… and teachers of color. I think it’s a robust group and a group that can really make a difference. [I hope students know] that they have allies, and that they have support.”
In addition to helping graduate students, Melani Garcia ’21, an IRT student advisory board member, explained that the IRT is also working to improve diversity on campus.
“One of our first steps is to introduce IRT to Andover and to start conversations about the lack of diversity in our faculty. It’s really important to [have] representation in the classroom, and for teachers to see themselves in other teachers, as well as for students to see themselves in their teachers. It’s beneficial to their learning and is a necessity,” said Garcia.
During the talk, LaShawnda Brooks, Executive Director of the IRT, referenced a graphic outlining the ratio of students of color to white students at Andover, as well as the ratio of teachers of color to white teachers. The graphic, which was created by The Phillipian, referenced data from the Office of the Dean of Faculty. According to the graphic, students of color comprise around 50 percent of the student body, while faculty of color comprise 33 percent of the faculty body.
Brooks noted that the numbers did not express how many teachers were committed to long-term careers at Andover, such as how many Teaching Fellows were among the teachers of color.
“When we look at this number, we can’t just aggregate who is that faculty member. Is it truly an instructor? Is it a teaching fellow? Is that person committed to staying for two to three more years? Data only tells part of the story, and I think the other part of the story is to think about what… the experiences that individuals have through diversity in education,” said Brooks in her talk.
She continued, “There is the opportunity to think through what the magic number is. What is the number that truly speaks for teacher diversity? Should it be 50-50, or should it be higher? What are the skills gained by having a more diverse teacher body, as well as a diverse student body?”
Attendee Robert Nicolas ’23 wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I learned a lot about the numbers and percentages behind the faculty and students of color, the challenges that a lack of diversity can pose, and the possible solutions that could solve a lack of diversity.”
While Nicholas appreciates the work done by the IRT to increase on the number of faculty of color, he said that Andover still does not see have enough people of color on the faculty.
“I feel that students of color are not fairly represented in the faculty. Andover is doing a good job of getting a good number of faculty of color compared to other boarding schools, but we could still use more of them,” wrote Nicolas.
Saffron Agrawal ’21, a member of the IRT’s student advisory board, said that her own initial ignorance about the program encouraged her to raise awareness about the IRT at Andover.
“Part of our position on the advisory board is bridging the gap between Andover and IRT. When we got an email in April from [Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students] about looking for people to apply for the board, neither of us had ever heard of what it was, or even [knew] it existed. We definitely want to change that and have everyone on campus know what [IRT] is,” said Agrawal.