Edmonds School District offers first-of-its-kind scholarship for teachers of color

The Edmonds-Woodway school district wants to pay for employees to go to college.

EDMONDS, Wash. — A Snohomish County school has come up with a unique way to recruit teachers of color. The Edmonds School District will pay for employees to go to college.

There are 1,654 students at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood; paraeducator Justine Locke believes she knows roughly 1,240 of them.

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"Hopefully, 75 percent, but I'd like to know 100 percent," she said, laughing.

Locke loves working in education, but while there are plenty of students that look like her, there aren't many other educators who do. Locke is an educator of color.

Fifty percent of the Edmonds School District student population is made up of minorities but only 8 to 9 percent of the teacher population is people of color. That's considerably lower than the national average of 18 to 19 percent.

"There are studies that show, if a student has at least one teacher of color by the time they enter third grade, graduation rates increase exponentially," said Andrea Paull, the teacher education advancement coordinator for the district.

Paull has been instrumental in developing a first-of-its-kind program to change that disconnect: the Teachers of Color Scholarship, funded by a foundation.

Any district employee of color -- whether a custodian, a bus driver or a paraeducator -- can apply to have their tuition covered in full if they pursue a degree in teaching.

"My biggest concern is how I was going to student teach while raising two teenagers myself as a single mom," Locke said while talking about when she considered going back to school.

The scholarship has that covered. It includes a stipend.

"We really look at this as more than writing a check," Paull explained.

"It is the network of support you have at the district office, the network of support you have in the community. It's students of color having a means to be supported in their journey for education," Locke said.

"This degree is 25 years in the making for me," she told us, but really, her journey is just beginning.

She starts student teaching in the fall and some day she may know 100 percent of the students in the entire district.

"I still plan to go on and become an administrator, possibly a superintendent, one day," Locke said.

If you are interested in applying for this scholarship, click here: http://www.teachersofcolorfoundation.com/