Recruiting and retaining quality teachers is a challenge for school systems in many cities. In Baltimore, the challenge is a little more unique as educators strive to find better ways to attract and keep teachers of color.
"I talk to students all the time who say there’s a different connection with teachers who come from my neighborhood or who understand my experience," Baltimore City Public School Superintendent Sonja Santelises.
Baltimore City School leaders hosted an open discussion about race relations in its schools Tuesday. Close to 80% of city students are African American but only about 40% of its teachers identify that way.
"I don’t think we’re doing as good a job in teachers of color recruitment as we could," said resident, Kim Trueheart.
"They need strong role models. It takes a village to raise a child," said Baltimore City teacher, Tina Queen.
This panel, made up of high level administrators and teachers tackled the tough issues surrounding recruitment and more importantly, retention of minority teachers.
"Their leadership opportunities, their support within schools, their particular needs and their desire to want to connect with young people in a district that has an overwhelming majority of African American students," said Santelises.
Teachers say they see the need first hand.
"We have to make sure that we’re servicing our students and many of the students that are in the classrooms, they need to see someone who looks like them," Queen said.
The thought is, minority teachers can bridge gaps and the research shows it.
"Young people, particularly young people of color, benefit from having not only high performing teachers but high performing teachers that look like them," Santelises said.
And those teachers can also build relationships that offer opportunity to sometimes neglected racial groups.
Baltimore City Teacher of The Year, LaQuisha Hall, said, "When a young girl specifically looks at me and sees that I'm educated, that sees that I've been successful, I'm a published author that made this achievement in my career I think that they see that as attainable for themselves."
And that realization is half the battle.