Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Diversity is more than skin deep

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As a teacher, I have been told I am nice, I am mean, and I have even been told I was too boring. However, it came a surprise to me to read in the Sun that I am now too white to teach for the Clark County School District (“ ‘Teacher diversity gap’ cause for concern in CCSD schools”).

The CCSD has decided that students from culturally diverse backgrounds will better benefit from being taught by teachers of the same ethnicity. Really? I guess it no longer matters to the CCSD that, as a 40-something who is new to the teaching field, I bring a lifetime of experiences to my classroom, many of which I have in common with my diverse group of students even though we are not of the same color.

I have a student who hails from the same part of New York as I do, and we reminisced over being able to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in person.

I have cried with students who are having family drama.

I brought in a craft project I had finished to show my class, and now a student wants me to teach her that art form.

I have had Hispanic students approach me to compare my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah to the Quinceañeras of their culture. One of these students being a boy who I had butted heads with for over a year, but we finally bonded looking at pictures of my daughter’s and his cousin’s events.

For students who are embarrassed by being raised by grandparents or living in multigenerational households, I share with them that I lived in a multigenerational household as a child and loved having my extended family under one roof.

While I can share all of these rich experiences with my students, I do not share the same color as many of them. I do not see how that makes me any less of a teacher.

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  1. An excellent letter! How do we expand diversity and acceptance of differences as norms without practicing it?

  2. If the CCSD finding that teachers of the same ethnicity as the students do better at teaching them, then let's all promote and provide home schooling. End of story.

    I'm more concerned about the new white wash star system rating. It appears to be a scam from all I read and hear. Maybe the ethnicity study is a diversion tactic?

    CarmineD

  3. A good letter. Shows that racism is alive in the CCSD, and just when we thought there was about to equality in America.

  4. Racism has been alive and well in this COUNTRY forever. A "diversity gap" in the CCSD may indeed exist. This is nothing new in school systems throughout the country. When I went to school, my teachers were ALL white.

  5. Wendy Gelbart, of Las Vegas,

    My heart goes out to you. Being a teacher, your one of the first pillars of the community in helping the children.

    Being treated differently has many challenges, which only a person that been treated differently could understand. Many people of color deal with what your experiencing daily. They find ways to over come the bias, prejudices and special treatment. This never becomes accepted nor tolerated. What it does is create divisions in the community.

    Your challenge Wendy Gelbart, is to challenge the actions by CCSD. Your being treated differently, this is an opportunity for you to united others and to show that discrimination can affect anyone.

  6. Dear Mrs. Gelbart,

    I hope what you have exhibited today is not representative of the critical thinking or reading comprehension skills taught today in our schools.

    I read that article again. Your conclusions are not representative of what was written in the article. Maybe, as homework tonight, you can reread it and try to reapply the aforementioned skills.

    Take, for example, your declaration that, "I am now too white to teach for the Clark County School District!"

    I must ask, did you read the entire article, and not just the headline? Were you offended when Greta Peay, director of the district's equity and diversity education department, said, "But any teacher who is culturally sensitive, knows the background of students and is open to working with them -- regardless of their ethnicity -- can reach minority students and do well. You don't have to look, talk and walk like your students to teach them."

    Did you skip the following paragraph?

    "It's not that children of color require instruction from teachers of color, Vesneske said. Rather, it's that schools and students of all backgrounds benefit when there is diversity among educators."

    The state wants to recruit more minority teachers by attending job fairs at minority colleges. They also note that the alternative road to licensure needs revision:

    "In addition, Nevada's Alternative Routes to Licensure -- which proponents say allows mid-career, minority professionals to become teachers -- is too complicated and has too many requirements, Vesneske said."

    Do these observations threaten your job? No. Your hysterical outrage at the district seeking to expand diversity within its ranks makes me question the caliber of teachers at CCSD. Your conclusions are not borne of the source material.

    You have nothing to fear from increased diversity at CCSD.

  7. Wendy, I LOOK White too but am very mixed. But since the schools and all government functions are supposed to serve ALL Americans, why aren't we seeing adequate and appropriate media coverage of the multitude of cultures in America? What about those of German descent with strong ethics? What about the English descendants with ties to Merry Old? What about those who had great-grands who spent a few generations in Canada but didn't like the social welfare government?

    As a White-looking woman, I'm disrespected for being "Caucasoid." There is some of that in my dna but I grew up off a reservation of NATIVE Americans. My first "professional" employment required much of my daytimes in the ghettos. My coworkers and friends were then and since of many
    shades. I recall one phone worker (Black) laughing so hard....she was taking a survey and asked me what color I was. I told her "I'm Pink. No wait, right now I'm Brown, dark Brown, cause I tan real well." OK, I start out the color of white paper and have pale eyes AND I have full siblings with black hair, dark eyes, darker skin. Maybe I should have a dna analysis to find out if great-great-grand Dad was really from Lithuania. Not sure they can tell since Europe has various national borders but the peoples have "intermarried" for centuries. Ditto Asia, Africa, South America, United States.

  8. Ms. Gelbart,

    Please advise as to for whom you voted in the last Presidential election. Afterwards, please repeat the mantras "you reap what you sow" and "when you lie with dogs, you get fleas." Now, go away and quit whining.

    Regards
    Purgatory

  9. Future's rants remind me about a comment concerning the recent teapot tempest to exhume Yasser Arafat: It makes no difference whether further examination shows he was poisoned or not. The nuts on both wings will NOT alter their fixed positions in the least, while those in-between have long since moved on.

  10. Late arrival today. My take on the above bloviations? Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Some of the "comments" on this blog resemble EDITORIALS, possibly better placed on the pages of the Sun itself, not this blog. Most of the posters on this blog have already gone to bed, but I will say my piece, as usual. You can't put a reply button here, but you can print the dissertations of people like Chaplin, that go ON AND ON AND ON AND ON. Just sayin'.

  11. A parting shot. Nobody gives a sh*t about anybody's life experiences leading up to a sentence or two that's relevant to the actual thread content. Start editing these bloviations a bit, to make the thread somewhat coherent. This blog is slightly out of control on content. Thanks.

  12. Schools are a reflection of the neighborhood they are in. Upon closer examination, these schools are staffed with appropriate diversity mixes, and both the CCSD HR and the Diversity and Equity Departments have done a superb job in maintaining the diversity balances.

    Really, the gist of the original article seemed to have pointed out, was that there are fewer qualified teachers from other cultures going into education, making it a bit more challenging to maintain equal staffing mixes. The purpose of that article is subject to interpretation.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star