Kellie Custer, MA, BCBA, is the Program and Grant Specialist at Capital Area Intermediate Unit.
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?
As the program and grant specialist in the Student Services Department, I have had the opportunity to develop a high school student internship program. This program provides opportunities for high school students interested in the field of education to experience a variety of interactions with students aged 3-21 years old. The majority of these placements are paid, recognizing that students should be compensated for the efforts they put in towards supporting our learners. I am also a member of our organization's Belonging Committee and the co-chair of the Partnership Subcommittee.
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?
As a member of the recruiting and onboarding committee, I have worked to increase our organization's presence at nontraditional career fairs. Recently, I represented our organization at a United Way Road to Success Career Fair hosted at a local Salvation Army service center. At this event, and similar events, I am able to present entry-level opportunities to individuals who are interested in careers in education but may not hold the correct credential. As an organization, we are committed to supporting our paraprofessional staff in pursuing credentials and obtaining professional positions within the organization.
Why are you passionate about increasing educator diversity?
I am passionate about increasing educator diversity because our students, educators, and community deserve better. Better representation. Better opportunities for belonging. Better supports. Better outcomes.
As a member of the recruiting and hiring committee, Kellie is committed to providing equitable access and entry to careers in education. She promotes this work by regularly representing the CAIU at career
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?
The main challenge I have faced in this work is the experience BIPOC students have in the classroom on a daily basis. During my consulting work, the disproportionality in discipline referrals and referrals for support was evident. It seems unrealistic and ignorant to ask BIPOC students to return to and support a system that historically has not supported them.
Did you attend the recent 2022 PEDC virtual summit? What were some valuable takeaways?
Yes. I had the opportunity to participate on the planning committee for the 2022 PEDC summit. The major highlight of this experience was the spirit of necessity that was present at each of our meetings. Every member of that team stepped up to make the event a true success. I was able to make connections with dedicated professionals in this work from across the state. The main takeaway from the Summit Sessions was the absence of student voice in the work, which is already being addressed and is an exciting move in the right direction.
Have you used any of the PEDC available resources & toolkits? If so, how?
I have utilized a variety of resources from PEDC when writing grants seeking funding for Prep 2 Practice opportunities that would create a grow-your-own program within our organization, specifically targeting the development of paraprofessional staff.
How can people connect with you and continue to follow your work?