MTEA promotes minorities in education

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

In 1995, two Eastern professors wanted to help address the nationwide shortage of minority teachers through a program that would introduce minority students to teaching while completing their undergraduate degree.

Those two professors, Dr. Judith Lyles and Dr. Freddie Banks, were able to address that issue through a grant that helped create Eastern’s chapter of the Minority Teacher Education Association, or MTEA.

Dr. Mona Davenport, the executive director of Eastern’s Office of Inclusion & Academic Engagement, works closely with MTEA as well as other organizations and colleges on campus to help “enhance the involvement of their minority students interested in academic engagement.”

She said that MTEA was brought to Eastern to “create a support for minority students aspiring to teach” and “enhance the teaching effectiveness of potential and current minority teachers education majors.”

Ever since its creation, MTEA has been beneficial to Eastern’s future teachers who are minorities.

Shanovia Netter-Bailey, a junior special education student, is the association’s president. She said that she joined MTEA because it helped her find minority students with shared experience.

“I just wanted to find that support and that group of people that I could relate to, because in the education program, I was not seeing any Black people in my classes,” Netter-Bailey said. “I was probably the only Black person, or maybe one other, so sometimes it’s intimidating when you go throughout your whole semester going to class and you don’t see anybody that you can relate to unless you are part of an outside organization.”

MTEA also helps reduce barriers for minority students by providing them with resources that prepare them for their future careers as teachers.

Students in the education program have to go through lots of steps before they are ready to become teachers, and those include taking certain tests, doing background checks, and submitting their fingerprints.

MTEA prepares them by helping its members complete those requirements, updating them on any changes made to any part of the process, and giving them access to scholarships available to future teachers.

The association primarily provides these resources and pieces of information to its members during its bi-monthly meetings. This school year, they met the first and third Monday of each month at 5 p.m. via Zoom.

During these meetings, the association also gets together to discuss how classes are going and important topics within their major like why they want to be teachers.

Christian Watson, a freshman spanish education student, is the association’s secretary.

This being his first year at Eastern, he knew he wanted to be involved in campus, especially with other future educators.

“Being that I am Jamaican and Mexican, I thought it was only fitting to join an organization that supports future educators who are minorities,” Watson said.

He said that these bi-monthly meetings help them check in with each other to see how everyone is doing as they navigate college. For example, they use that time to give each other recommendations for classes they should take to advance in their careers.

“We always want to make sure that we are checking in with each other and making sure that we are all prepared and excited for the next steps in our educator journey, whether that be observation hours, practicum, student teaching, or even graduation and job hunting,” Watson said.

During these meetings, they also have guest speakers teach the members about specific topics, such as how to teach during the COVID era.

They also had representatives from Eastern’s Career Services teach them how to use Handshake, a job-finding website.

“We help students build relationships with the different staff on EIU’s campus and provide them with the resources so they can go and make connections with these people on their own,” Netter-Bailey said.

Due to COVID-19, the association was unable to meet or host any events in person this school year.

“I really wish we could have met in person because I felt like it would have been more intimate and the relationships we could have built with each other would have been more meaningful,” Netter-Bailey said.

In previous school years, the association’s in-person meetings and events provided the members with opportunities to enhance their teaching skills.

The association used to take trips to Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, Illinois to tutor students, invite minority alumni working in the field of education to speak with the students, and more.

“One of MTEA’s favorite activities to do was bring younger students from the Charleston community onto EIU’s campus and read books to them in the Ballenger Teachers Center,” Watson said.

Those sorts of events and service projects help the members of the association have a better understanding of what it takes to be a teacher.

Despite the struggles the association faced this school year, they have been able to provide future educators with the help and opportunities they need while still following the COVID regulations.

For example, this school year, they hosted their readings via Zoom.

MTEA is hopeful that they will be able to be more active in the community this upcoming school year.

“MTEA will be doing more volunteering events and will hopefully host in-person events on EIU’s campus as well as in the Charleston community schools,” Watson said. “Of course, this all depends on how the pandemic improves and things return to some form of normalcy.”


Kyara Morales Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].