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New Grant Established by HGSE Students
Teachers of Color for Urban Education Grant Created by Current Students

Harvard Graduate School of Education
May 2, 2002
 

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"If we tell our students that they can impact the social structure, maybe we should show them that we, their teachers, can as well."
—Kristi Johnson, chair of the Student Selection Committee for the first Teachers of Color for Urban Education grant

Christopher Martínez, with some of his students
Christopher Martínez, with some of his students  

Incoming HGSE student Christopher Martínez has been selected as the first recipient of the Teachers of Color for Urban Education grant created by Teaching and Curriculum (TAC) students and intended for a TAC student. To create this new grant, designed to attract minority teachers to HGSE, the current cohort of the TAC program decided to redirect the money that HGSE uses to finance their seminar meals and coffee breaks.

Students and faculty members voted unanimously to forfeit these meals to help fund an incoming TAC student's education at HGSE. "It was a community effort," says Kristi Johnson, the chair of the TAC-student-run selection committee. According to Johnson, the creation of the grant was "truly a joint effort of the TAC students and the administration, including [HGSE faculty members] Vicki Jacobs and Kay Merseth." The timeline from idea to the implementation of the actual aid was relatively short: the idea was first suggested in December, a TAC cohort vote was taken in January, and the financial paperwork was completed in February. "We thought that there would be layers and layers of red tape, but the administration and faculty really helped us all the way," says Johnson.

With the largest endowment of any university in the country behind them, why would students feel compelled to forgo a free meal to attract a future student whom they might never meet? Johnson says that it's about "changing the social structure"; she explains, "TAC students feel that one of education's purposes is to challenge the social structure. This means being in the classroom, and it also means recruiting bright people to be great teachers. We wanted to help Harvard with the efforts it is already making to encourage diversity and we realized that we could do something."

A Commitment to Urban Education
Christopher Martínez, the inaugural TAC grant recipient, brings an extraordinary amount of experience in "challenging the social structure" to the TAC table. Five years ago, as a University of California, Berkeley undergraduate, he co-founded an afterschool youth program for twenty students in a low-income neighborhood in West Oakland. Still run by Martínez today, the Student Tutorial Endeavor Program (S.T.E.P.) matches up 140 children with about 70 Berkeley undergraduates in a mentoring and tutoring relationship that continues throughout the academic year and into the summer. Through his experiences with S.T.E.P., Martínez discovered a passion for education that ultimately led him to HGSE.

Perhaps most striking is what the grant says about Martínez's peers and future co-teachers. "Beyond how much the grant helps me financially, I am very humbled and honored to receive a grant that was initiated by my peers," says Martínez. "I have been amazed by the support and focus of both the faculty and student-body towards urban education [at the Harvard Graduate School of Education]," he comments. "The initiation of the TAC grant by the student-body is what makes Harvard truly special and my decision to attend very easy."

A TAC Tradition?
The grant recipient has been selected, the money designated, and the work of this year's TAC selection committee is done. However, the future of the grant has yet to be defined. Johnson says that although she hopes the overall objective of the grant will remain the same in years to come, the actual shaping of TAC's interests in a candidate was a learning process in and of itself. "We hope that this will become a TAC tradition. At the same time, we want there to be enough flexibility so that next year's cohort can also gain from the experience. We want this to evolve—we don't want it to stagnate."

About the Teaching and Curriculum Program
The Teaching and Curriculum (TAC) program prepares individuals with undergraduate or graduate degrees, recent and mid-career, to become middle- or secondary-school classroom teachers in urban settings. The program is based on the premise that the best teachers at the secondary level are those who utilize an in-depth understanding of subject matter to construct meaningful learning activities and assessments for all students. The TAC curriculum includes teaching practica at Cambridge and Boston schools, HGSE coursework in urban education, introductory teaching techniques and approaches to literacy. Students in the TAC program also enroll in courses in their specialty subject at Harvard University, MIT, or Tufts graduate schools. For more information about the TAC program, visit their web site.

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