Dec. 15, 2022Print | PDF
Ardavan Eizadirad and Jennifer Straub were among the co-organizers of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Teacher Diversity Event, which brought 50 equity-deserving high school students to campus to learn about the profession from teachers and teacher candidates of diverse backgrounds. Both Eizadirad and Straub are assistant professors for the Faculty of Education and members of the university’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenization (EDI-I) Coalition. In this Q&A article, the duo look back on the impact of the event.
Q: Why was it important to hold the Teacher Diversity Event?
A.E.: There are a lot of studies indicating a lack of representation in the teacher workforce as well as the faculties of education across Canada. Students from equity-deserving groups face more systemic barriers in education. We want to inspire them to consider teaching and see themselves belonging in a university setting.
J.S.: We recognize there is a need for teacher diversification. There needs to be a greater awareness of EDI-I so teachers can better relate to students who are immigrants, come from diverse backgrounds, or have experienced poverty.
Q: What was the feedback you received from the students at the event?
J.S.: It was outstanding. One student gave us an 11/10 (on their exit survey). Teenagers are usually a tough crowd so that was a nice surprise. The one comment that sticks with me is that many of them wanted the event to be longer. It was the first time they felt their voices were valued. That’s huge for teenagers. The overwhelming request from school board representatives was they were surprised this hadn’t happened before and they hoped it would become an annual event with Laurier.
Q: You mentioned the event was a team effort. Who else deserves credit for putting it together?
A.E.: It was predominantly 20 teacher candidates who planned the event as well as Assistant Professor Avis Beek of the Faculty of Education. Many of them are going to be primary junior teachers. It’s really important that we acknowledge their contribution. The planning was about a year in the making. We came up with the schedule together and presented it to the school boards.
Q: Are there future plans for this event?
J.S.: Yes, our goal is to have the B.Ed. students plan and organize the whole thing and for this to be an annual event. There is a teacher shortage right now. We need people who are dedicated and motivated to become caring teachers. Our B.Ed. program has an additional 60 spots in Brantford. We want to encourage undergrad students to apply to our program, and we would encourage them to become part of the EDI-I coalition.
A.E.: We’re in the process of trying to revise the Bachelor of Education program for admissions criteria. Learning what barriers exist and breaking them down from an institutional level — this can build awareness for institutions to do more and rethink their admissions and support services.