Dr. Kristopher Brown who joined PEDC in 2021 and is an Equity Officer in the Abington School District. To learn more about his incredible story and efforts please read the interview below.
PEDC’s mission is to increase the diversity of the educator workforce & create a culturally relevant and sustaining education system here in PA. How do you push this work forward in your personal and/or professional capacity?
Have you worked on any projects or initiatives that positively impact the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the well-being of BIPOC teachers? If so, how?
Professionally, our district has made an effort to diversify our workforce and create a culturally relevant and sustaining education system. What makes our work special is the genuine commitment from our superintendent, Dr. Jeffrey Fecher, and our board of school directors.
The priority of diversity in the workforce is one that is not just spoken, but followed through with action. With the support of our board, and our superintendent, I have been encouraged to collaborate with other districts and thought partners across the country on different initiatives designed to best support a diverse educator workforce. Dr. Fecher and I just attended a workshop on recruitment and retention with school leaders from Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
We were able to learn about different initiatives in these districts, like Teaching Is My Favorite Color from the South Fayette School District. Dr. Fecher has made it a priority for us to examine how we can do things like this in our district, and with the full support of our District leadership team we can make it happen. Personally, I volunteer as a co-chair with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Educators of Color Affinity space. This is an organization affiliated with Villanova University under the leadership of Dr. Anthony Stevenson.
This has been a very positive experience for me both personally and professionally as it is great to be in community with other local educators of color.
Why are you passionate about increasing educator diversity?
I am passionate about increasing educator diversity because of both my own personal experience as a student, and for the experiences that my children will have in the education system.
I became an educator because I wanted to become the educator that I needed when I was in school. I didn’t have a black male educator in my K-12 school experience and I wanted to be that person and make sure more kids have that person(s) in their lives. I want my own children and by extension all children to be surrounded by educators of color. That’s why I am passionate. I treat all the students in my care as if they were my own; I want the best for them and the best experience is one that is filled with a diverse teaching staff.
When I was in middle school, there was a black male social studies teacher that we all wanted to have. He coached football and basketball at school, and all of us looked up to him. I never had him as a teacher, but I remember wanting to have him and being envious of friends who did. That teacher became an administrator in another district and since I became an educator he became a mentor to me. I want to recreate that feeling for other students.
Dr. Kristopher Brown pictured with high school teacher, Mr. Aubrey Martin and the Abington Senior High School Student Equity Ambassadors at one of the club meetings
What challenges are you experiencing in this work?
Are there any regional (or statewide) specific challenges you are facing?
What are some of your needs?
From a challenge standpoint, this is not an Abington specific issue, but one challenge is finding the candidates. National and state data suggests that the candidate pool is shrinking and we are all competing for the same scarce resources. That being said, a challenge for us is to identify how we can stand out? How do we continue to push to constantly get better?
For us, that means identifying ways where we can think outside the box; how we can do something different to better support our existing BIPOC staff and also think about how we can get more individuals interested in education. In education, we are often our own worst enemies because we often encourage our young people to enter just about every career field except for education.
As a need, it would be nice to have more university level partners who can support dual-enrollment opportunities. We have explored some partnerships but have yet to come across a university partner who has an engaging dual enrollment program to help support more students, especially students of color, enroll and enter the field.
Are you affiliated with any other organizations working towards addressing the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the wellbeing of BIPOC teachers?
As I mentioned earlier, I am affiliated with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Educators of Color Affinity network. This group has been a fantastic resource for educators of color in the Southeastern PA region. I have found comfort in being able to network with other educators of color.
Dr. Kristopher Brown representing Abington School District at the Nemnet Diversity Career Fair for Educators.
Have you used any of the PEDC available resources & toolkits? If so, how?
We have utilized the Pennsylvania Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education Competencies to help inform our equitable practices professional development series. The competencies really help to provide an overarching framework for Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Practices. The questions to stimulate reflexivity have been excellent to use in practice to help guide our educators. We did a considerable amount of professional development with Dr. Ronald Whitaker (one of the authors) and he continued to reinforce these ideas with our staff.
We have also utilized the Recruitment toolkit to continue to think about ways in which we can improve our efforts in a more meaningful way. For example, we have explored partnerships with local universities with respect to dual enrollment.
We were able to have some students attend a program virtually at Arcadia University, however, we have yet to be able to build what I would consider a successful partnership in dual enrollment for educational pathways. Our high school recently implemented a Pathways program, and we have also utilized this resource to help begin to think about apprenticeship and field experience placements for our students as well.
How can people connect with you and continue to follow your work?