Where are the Black teachers at Beaverton High School?

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Anouk Clendenning

The lack of Black teachers at Beaverton High School may leave Black students with fewer opportunities to connect to school staff.

“We are a diverse community that encourages the inspiration and aspiration of every person,” says the principal of Beaverton High School, Dr. Anne Erwin, in the principal’s letter on the school’s website. “We” students are a diverse community, but the teachers? Not so much. 

At Beaverton High School, 42% of students are white, 42% are Hispanic, and 3% are Black. However, an overwhelming 80% of teachers are white, and there are no Black teachers at Beaverton High School. Two members of BHS staff are Black, but both are campus supervisors. Students often don’t see campus supervisors much, let alone talk to them. When I rode my bike to school, I would often say “Good morning” to one of the campus supervisors, Jose Andrade Nava. He might add a comment about the weather and such, but the conversation between the two of us lasted at most 30 seconds. That is nothing compared to the hours I spend with teachers in class. 

Making connections between teachers is helpful for students. These connections can help students get a letter of recommendation for college, or enjoy the class more since they have a positive relationship with the teacher. These connections are much easier to make when the teacher shares the same culture with some students or share the same hardships. I am half Japanese, and luckily for me, there is a Japanese teacher at Beaverton High School. I can talk to her in Japanese about various things, including the foods I miss from Japan. I joined the Asian Student Union primarily due to the Japanese teacher, making me more involved with the school. But Black students don’t have an adult to share their culture and spend their time with. Without an adult to connect to, the disconnect between Black students and Beaverton High School Staff may increase since teachers may not understand a Black student’s culture and experiences as well as a Black teacher would. 

The lack of Black teachers at Beaverton High School might be because there are not many Black people living in Oregon in the first place. The Black population in Oregon is only about 3% due to the racist past of Oregon. Oregon originally started out as a whites-only state, and even after slavery was banned in 1884, Black people were prohibited from living in the territiory. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was active in the state as well: in 1923, there were about 35,000 active members of the Klan. Oregon is still majority white, which seems to reflect the diversity of the teachers. And though both Sunset High School and Westview High School have at least one Black teacher each, the one at Westview is a paraeducator.

“…Staff of color can help students to be motivated to achieve and envision success for themselves amidst an environment of potential alienation and social inequality,” said Alexis D.R. Ball, the author of the study Examining Racial Disparities In Beaverton. Indeed, having two Black people as campus supervisors diversifies the staff, but Black students would benefit significantly from a Black teacher more so than campus supervisors. 

When Beaverton High School hires a new teacher, they should focus on hiring a teacher of color, and more specifically, a Black teacher. The lack of Black teachers at Beaverton High school means that Black students don’t have an adult to connect to through their culture and hardships, which may make them feel disconnected from teachers. As Ball said, “Though having a diverse staff body is not the only aspect that needs to improve in order to boost the success of students of color, it is one crucial step.”