Nearly 30 percent of school-age children in Charlottesville and Albemarle County are African American, but less than 10 percent of their teachers are. The absence of African American teachers leaves many African American students feeling disconnected from school, and the disparity creates misperceptions and stereotypes that disadvantage all students, regardless of race.
We want to change that.
We believe that our public schools can break down these painful barriers. They can teach cultural dexterity, lead by example, and become statewide models for excellence.
Faculty diversification has the power to shatter historical stereotypes. We champion African American teachers, commit to their recruitment and development, in order to do just that.
If our work, and the work of our Fellows, succeeds, future generations will grow up with the knowledge that our differences deserve celebration, our similarities forever multiply, and while skin colors speak to ethnic roots, we succeed through the strength of our spirits.
African American Teaching Fellows works to recruit, support, develop, and retain a cadre of African American teachers to serve the public schools of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
We support the education of African American college students with financial support, professional development, job training skills, and connections within the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.
Empowered to return to local schools and serve as the next generation of leaders, our Fellows become invaluable role models for African American students and prepare all young people to thrive in a diverse world.
Contemporary education reform focuses largely on standardized test score improvement. Unfortunately, this laser-like focus on math and English proficiency ignores the holistic goals of education—namely, increases in students’ self-awareness, creativity, and social engagement. As administrations encourage quick-fix solutions for modest proficiency gains, children lose the opportunity to develop into broad-minded citizens who benefit their communities.
We take a different approach.
We put relationships first. Our Fellows learn about students as individuals and become members of the community in which their students are growing up. This allows Fellows to address students in context and make learning relevant to their lives. Students not only learn material that is covered on standardized tests but they use this knowledge to explore and improve themselves and the world around them.
In this way, education extends beyond the classroom. In Charlottesville and Albemarle County, African American Teaching Fellows not only promote diversity in action; they serve school communities, develop new leaders, and improve the quality of life for everyone.
The AATF program is the only one of its kind in the United States. While many programs offer financial support to college students who commit to becoming teachers, we go further—working one-on-one with each Fellow while she or he is in college and continuing the relationship after graduation, providing professional support during the young teacher’s early years in the classroom. Our program follows four phases:
Phase One: Recruitment
We visit high schools in our community and college campuses throughout the state and introduce exceptional students to AATF. We also host recruitment events for teachers’ assistants in the Charlottesville area. Students interested in our program complete a rigorous application and screening process, which includes developing a plan to obtain a teaching degree and license. Successful applicants sign promissory notes agreeing to teach in our local schools for a period equal to the amount of time they receive support.
Phase Two: Support
Each fellowship includes a forgivable loan of $5,000 a year for up to three years. This funding helps to cover the cost of tuition, textbooks, and fees for licensure tests, with payments made by AATF to the educational institution.
Fellows also receive individualized support from our director of programs, and our program remains consistently involved throughout the duration of each Fellow’s education.
Phase Three: Teacher-Leader Development
AATF goes beyond academic support to ensure our Fellows develop professional excellence and community leadership. Our Teacher-Leader Institute begins while Fellows are in college and extends into their teaching careers. This year-round support system is a career development intensive that includes summer workshops in classroom instruction, training in community leadership, classroom observations, and professional introductions throughout the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.
The Teacher-Leader Institute allows Fellows to begin building careers while still in school, connecting them to our community, improving their effectiveness as classroom teachers, and strengthening their abilities to empower local groups.
Phase Four: Retention
The first few years of a teaching career can be the most difficult, and our program works to see that Fellows are supported in the classroom and connected to the community, because the only thing more important than having great teachers in our community is keeping them here. AATF is building a robust network of alumni who call this community home, and from the first day of a Fellow’s teaching career, we work to make sure that beyond being great teachers, all of our Fellows feel at home in our community.