As early as the sixth grade, students in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky, are inspired by their own teachers to choose teaching as a career.
For over a decade, JCPS has partnered with the University of Louisville to respond to a critical shortage of minorities in the teaching profession, both in Kentucky and throughout the nation.
"There is no better way to attract bright, young minorities to the teaching profession than to expose them to career possibilities while they are still in school," observes one of the teacher mentors involved in the Minority Teachers Recruitment Project (MTRP). "Middle school teachers identify minority students with qualities they think point to an aptitude for teaching and encourage them to join the program," explains coordinator Gina Braxton.
Almost 1,000 participants are guided by teacher mentors at the district's forty-five middle and high schools, where they observe classroom instruction, follow teachers during the school day, and give lessons to other students.
Educators talk to students about their own positions in the field of education. In high school, MTRP participants also tutor students at other grade levels. MTRP's high school program includes a focus on getting students ready for college through financial aid workshops, test preparation and college application seminars, and college campus tours.
MTRP helps its students stay in college at the University of Louisville, by networking them with other students and providing academic support. MTRP has already succeeded in inspiring a new generation of teachers -- over 120 former participants are now teaching in the district's schools.