Growing up, my favorite teacher, by far, was Mr. Collins, my AP calculus teacher at Huron High School. The class was tough — more than I thought I could handle. But Mr. Collins never let me fail. He made sure I was present and engaged, stayed with me after class when I needed extra help, and gave me rides home when necessary. I could laugh with Mr. Collins and I could cry with him. He was even in communication with my mother about my progress. Mr. Collins set high expectations for my success, and in the end, I passed the class — and the AP exam.
I was one of a handful of black students in the classroom, and Mr. Collins was white.
Research has shown that minority teachers are likely to be more effective in producing positive academic and behavioral outcomes for same-race students. But you don’t have to have a shared race, background, or experience in order to connect. You can do what Mr. Collins did — build a relationship, set expectations, and work to keep your students engaged.