Amira Nash, associate director of partnerships and programs in the Baker Teacher Leader Center, received one of the University of Iowa’s 2021 Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant Awards for her work on the recruitment and retention of BIPOC teacher education students. Nash won this award in collaboration with Alexei Lalagos and Carmen Gwenigale, both Leadership Fellows in the Iowa City Community School District.
The Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant aims to support new initiatives on campus contributing to diversity, equity, and inclusion-related strategic goals. These can be at the departmental, college, or university level, and Nash is one of five winners this year.
Nash will be using this grant to support a pipeline program to increase the number of BIPOC teachers. Right now, the number of teachers of color in the Iowa City Community School District is not representative of the number of students of color. In the district, students of color make up 42% of the student body, while 6% of teachers are teachers of color.
Nash recalls not having her first teacher of color until she attended Iowa, and says she was the first teacher of color for most of her high school students.
“Representation is so important,” says Nash. “It is beneficial for students of color to have academically successful role models from their own racial and ethnic group. Teachers of color tend to have higher academic expectations for students of color, and when students have teachers of color, especially as young children, it can help reduce stereotypes and implicit bias.”
In the partnership program between the Baker Teacher Leader Center and the Iowa City Community School District, BIPOC students in the Teacher Education Program will serve as mentors for Educator Rising chapters at Iowa City high schools. With this, the TEP students will develop curriculum to support Iowa City students through standards-aligned programming, and local EdRising chapters will participate in workshops and seminars led by TEP students.
The hope is that students involved with the program will be inspired and motivated to become educators in the Iowa City Community School District.
This was the first grant Nash, Lalagos, and Gwenigale applied for together, and Nash says it was a joyous process.
“It has been amazing to know we have some funding now to get the program going,” Nash says.
In her role as associate director of partnerships and programs in the BTLC, Nash supports antiracism and globalization efforts in the College of Education in addition to creating student-to- -teacher pipeline programs specifically for students of color, like this one, intended to diversify Iowa’s teacher workforce. She also does programming work to support the students of color currently in the Teacher Education Program.
A long time Hawkeye, Nash earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Iowa, along with her teaching licensure in 5-12 Social Studies, K-12 English Language Learning, and 5-12 Spanish. She also earned a Master of Arts degree from Iowa in Teaching, Leadership, and Cultural Competency, and is currently working on a doctorate in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies: Schools, Culture, and Society.