"If we tell our students that they can impact the social structure, maybe we should show them that we, their teachers, can as well."
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
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?
About the Teaching and Curriculum Program
HGSE News, Harvard Graduate School of Education