Lander University hosted a panel discussion featuring senior minority education leaders from throughout the state on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Titled “Closing the Achievement Gap: Lander University’s Minority Education Summit,” the event represented a conclusion to Lander’s month-long celebration of Black History Month. Lander’s Black Student Union, the Lander Teaching Fellows and the university’s Department of Teacher Education organized the event.
Panelists included Carlos Littlejohn, principal of Rice Elementary School in Greenwood; Dr. J.R. Green, superintendent for Fairfield County Schools; Andrea White, registrar for Westview Middle School in Greenwood; Sean Mims, social studies teacher at Brewer Middle School in Greenwood; Dr. Sean Alford, superintendent for Aiken County schools; and Dr. Stephen Peters, superintendent of Laurens County schools. Gavin Bethea, academic advising coordinator at Lander, moderated the event.
Much of the conversation centered upon teachers being able to relate to students of different backgrounds, and the importance of a mutual feeling of trust between students, their parents and their teachers.
In response to a question about whether today’s teachers are adequately prepared to teach minority students, Dr. Green said that some teachers are equipped to do so, while others are not. “A teacher’s preparation is a function of what you were exposed to during your teacher preparation programs, coupled with your life experiences,” he said. “When you have had diverse experiences over the course of your life, you’re more prepared to operate in a diverse educational setting. If you have never operated among kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, you may not understand the cultural barriers to overcome in educating them.”
Littlejohn spoke of the importance of a bond between students, parents and teachers. “The main thing I expect of my teachers is to form a relationship with their students and their families. It’s difficult to serve our students if we do not know them,” he said.
Dr. Green furthered that line of thinking by saying, “There must be an atmosphere of trust among all who are involved. The parents and the students will respond when they feel you have the students’ best interest in mind.”