RADNOR — Twenty-five Cabrini School of Education students will receive financial support and mentorship this fall thanks to $53,166 in funding from the Aspiring to Educate (A2E) program, a Cabrini partnership with the School District of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Department of Education that aims to diversify the professional teacher workforce in the state.
“Cabrini has been at the forefront of the efforts to train more diverse and dynamic educators in Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Beverly R. Bryde, dean of the School of Education. “We are grateful to the state and School District of Philadelphia for their support and shared vision of cultivating professional educators who better represent the diverse communities they serve.”
According to the Commonwealth, 96 percent of Pennsylvania’s more than 120,000 educators are white, and the pipeline of professional educators has been shrinking with 65 percent fewer Pennsylvanians seeking teaching certificates since 2013. The A2E program complements Cabrini’s own Diversity and Equity within the Education Profession (DEEP) IMPACT initiative, which intentionally focuses on increasing representation of teacher candidates from ethnically diverse backgrounds, specifically African American and Latinx individuals.
The 25 Teacher Education students in Cabrini’s A2E program can apply grant funds toward their textbook fees and other non-tuition related expenses this semester. The grant also includes stipends for Cabrini faculty, as well as partner K–12 teachers and educational leaders engaged in mentorship roles with the A2E students.
“This is a great opportunity for us to share our insights as students, while gaining great support and the connection of a network of mentors who will show us how to be successful in the field after college,” said Ixchele Ortiz of the class of 2022, who is participating in the A2E program as an Elementary Education and Special Education student. Ortiz also recently founded the Educators for Equity and Social Justice Club at Cabrini in an effort to provide resources and mental health support for education students as they prepare to become professional educators.
While the five other institutions participating in Pennsylvania’s A2E program have largely focused on creating a pipeline of teacher education candidates from local high schools, Cabrini was unique in its adherence to the program’s “Adult Pathway for Aspiring Educators,” which offers financial support and hiring priority to current students who have completed at least 30 credit hours in pursuit of a teacher certification. This became the desired strategy for implementing A2E funds after the COVID-19 pandemic created a teacher shortage and the state sought to expedite the training of professional teachers, said Ronald W. Whitaker II, assistant dean for the School of Education, assistant professor of education, and director of district and school relations. Whitaker, who also serves as faculty director of the Center for Urban Education, Equity, and Improvement, is leading Cabrini’s involvement in the A2E initiative.
“The Aspiring to Educate program is perfectly designed for Cabrini’s social justice mission, and our commitment to diversity, equity, and culturally relevant and sustaining practices in the education profession,” Whitaker said. “We are especially proud to provide high-caliber teaching candidates to local school districts that have been hit hardest by the ongoing pandemic.”
The second phase of Cabrini’s involvement in the A2E program will focus on post-baccalaureate education and encouraging individuals who have completed an undergraduate degree to continue their studies as culturally relevant educators.
“The Aspiring to Educate program will recruit a new generation of teachers and school leaders, while also diversifying the educator pipeline so we have more teachers of color in our classrooms,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera in a statement. “Equally important, the program provides a career pathway for students into the teaching profession, one that emphasizes mentoring from high school through college and into the classroom. It will also serve as a blueprint for other education communities looking to grow their pipelines.”
Other institutions receiving A2E funding were Arcadia, Cheyney, Drexel, Temple, and West Chester universities.