Dr. Miriam Marguerita Gomez Witmer is an Assistant Professor at Millersville University - Project Teacher Development.
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?
Personally, I mentor pre-service teachers of color in the Color of Teaching Mentoring Program, and I serve as an advocate for all students of color on campus.
Professionally, I serve as a DEI Champion on Millersville’s campus and facilitate DEI trainings in the local Lancaster County area. I also serve as the Chair of Millersville University’s President’s Commission on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion, and I am a co-founder of the Social Justice Collective for Educators. I am also a Co-PI for the Prep2Practice PDE grant that Millersville was awarded this year explicitly focused on recruiting and retaining more educators of color.
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?
The mission of Project Teacher Development is to recruit and retain students of color in the field of education. Trained Millersville college students mentor middle school and high school students who are considering college and a career in education. See the brochure below.
The Social Justice Collective at Millersville was created to support local educators who promote social justice in their schools and communities. We hosted virtual Summits inviting expert speakers on timely topics so they could share strategies with educators who are dedicate to equity and liberation for all students. The Collective also offers affinity groups to support specific groups of teachers who want to support one another on their social justice journey.
I mentor education majors of color, and I provided culturally relevant mentor training to all college student mentors in the Color of Teaching Mentoring Program.
I work with the Teach Plus organization, and I serve on the Policy and Advocacy Committee.
I am a member of the PA chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education (PA-NAME) and PAC-TE, where I advocate for more teacher diversity.
Why are you passionate about increasing educator diversity?
Ever since I was labeled as one of only two teachers of color (I’m multiracial) in my former school district, I have been dedicated to increasing the number of teachers of color because representation matters. Now as a college professor, I see the injustices on a greater level, and I need to be part of the solution. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.
Color of Teaching in Puerto Rico (study abroad)
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?
One big concern I have is that the social justice momentum that occurred after George Floyd’s murder has dwindled. In such a divided nation right now, it is so hard to get any real justice done, and this can be very frustrating. I was so hopeful that this time the Black Lives Matter movement would really make change happen.
I am hoping that a new Federal Teacher Residency grant call will be released soon. I would like to use these funds to provide free room and board to college students enrolled in Project Teacher Development who will be a part of a living-learning community and receive special teacher preparation programming and services.
It would be nice to have some funding for the Social Justice Collective, so we could ramp that up and serve more teachers.
Project Teacher Development really needs more capacity (personnel and resources) to serve all the requests we are now getting from numerous school districts for Project Teacher Development. We need at least a small staff and some financial resources to provide the level of service we were giving to the School District of Lancaster, our first school partner.
As a PDE Prep2Practice grant recipient, Millersville will be hosting a one-day Summit for PK-12 and higher education faculty focusing on the PDE CRSE Competencies. Drs. Cole-Mallott and Curci will speak at this event, and it would be nice to have one or two colleagues in our PEDC Community of Practice present on the progress they have made at their institutions with regard to implementing the CRSE Competencies. Please email me if you are interested and available on April 22, 2023.
Are you affiliated with any other organizations working towards addressing the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the wellbeing of BIPOC teachers?
I am a Board member of the International Mentoring Association, and I bring the concept of culturally relevant mentoring to the board so we can support our membership in that way. Educators make up the majority of our membership. I am also an IMA mentor trainer and have made sure that we address culturally relevant and sustaining mentoring practices in our trainings.
Color of Teaching Mentors lobby on Capitol Hill for Teacher Diversity
Did you attend the recent 2022 PEDC virtual summit? What were some valuable takeaways?
It is always nice to connect with like-minded colleagues at the Summit because it gives me energy again to continue the work. I take away inspiration and strategies. I think that hearing directly from pre-service teachers and educators of color is paramount to any ideas we may want to implement.
Have you used any of the PEDC available resources & toolkits? If so, how?
I have used numerous PEDC Community of Practice (COP) resources in my Social Foundations of Modern Education classes to help pre-service teachers explore their own unconscious biases and privilege. Self-reflection is a key component of this course as we endeavor to help students become culturally responsive teachers. I have conducted an informal pilot project in Fall 2022, having my students self-reflect on three of the CRSE Competencies (1, 2 & 9), using a pre-post self-reflection survey. Preliminary results showed that graduate students, in particular, often scored themselves lower on the post-survey, indicating that they just didn’t know what they didn’t know when they took the pre-survey. They realize now that they could be doing so much more. I am still analyzing the undergraduate results.
How can people connect with you and continue to follow your work?
Website: Color of Teaching Mentoring Program
Facebook: Color of Teaching Mentoring Program