As a former student at UVA, I have always been very dedicated to impacting education in the local Charlottesville community. My passion carried over from the classroom and into my current work with a local education-focused nonprofit. Being a student in the Curry School gave me early exposure to the awesome schools in the area, and I am elated that I have the chance to lead a nonprofit that works with potential teachers, novice teachers and veteran teachers in this community.
African American Teaching Fellows of Charlottesville-Albemarle, Inc. (AATF) is a registered 501 (c) (3) incorporated in 2005 with a mission to recruit, support, develop and retain a cadre of African American teachers to serve the Charlottesville City and Albemarle County public schools in Virginia. Our fellowship enables African American college students to pay for college, develop into premier teachers, establish a sense of collegiality with one another, foster connections to the community and succeed in obtaining and retaining a teaching position.
In Charlottesville and Albemarle, there are ten students for every teacher. However, only one out of ten teachers is African American. In other words, for every 122 students, there is one African American teacher. Our community serves over 15,000 students and employs more than 1,500 teachers, but fewer than 150 African American teachers work in our schools. In Charlottesville City, 38% of students are African American, and only 13% of the teachers are African American. Similarly, in Albemarle County, 11% of students are African American and 6% of the teachers are African American. A diverse cadre of teachers in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community presents implications for our community’s public school students.
One essential component of our program is our professional development. When I was in the Curry School, I was encouraged to attend conferences and to find various ways to hone my skills as an educator. This is directly reflected in the professional development opportunities provided by AATF, led by our program director, Jaime Hawkins (also a Curry alumna – M.T ’01 Elem Ed). Each year, AATF hosts a Summer Institute, which is designed to enhance workforce readiness for the Fellows. Fellows participate in a number of workshops and activities, which include preparing for the hiring process, doing mock interviews with local administrators, getting to know the schools in the community and learning how to set up a classroom.
Participation in the fellowship, allows Fellows organically to become a support system for one another. In addition, Fellows are each assigned a mentor—a current, local educator, who helps to facilitate professional growth and development and, ultimately, support Fellows as they prepare and enter the hiring process.
AATF recruits African American students enrolled in Virginia teacher preparation programs at several colleges and universities in Virginia. However, the largest percentage of the students who successfully complete their fellowships in our program, are graduates of the University of Virginia. Our organization is proud to have the opportunity to not only impact the lives of the locally, but to be able to work with the best and brightest from the Curry School of Education.
Many Fellows have remained in Charlottesville-Albemarle after fulfilling their teaching commitment. Nineteen Fellows are teaching in the state of Virginia. Out of that 19, 14 Fellows are currently teaching in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community. Over half of those 14 teachers are graduates of the Curry School of Education. Our organization is excited about the future of our program, and we hope to continue to impact the public schools in this area for years to come.