Teacher of the Year wants attention paid to racial disparities

/ 7 May 2012 / jennifer

Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio, May 7, 2012 –

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A 10th-grade English teacher at Edina High School has been chosen as the 2012 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Jackie Roehl has taught at Edina since 1998. She works on what’s called culturally responsive teaching that focuses on improving achievement for minority students.

Roehl says the statewide educators’ union Education Minnesota wanted to send message about the importance of minority student achievement by choosing her for the award.

“I think that they knew that even in white school districts that are 86 percent white like Edina, there is work to do on equity. I think they wanted to say that equity is more than an urban problem — it’s a state problem,” she said.

Coping with that problem isn’t easy because it’s hard to get people to have conversations about race.

“People do believe we are a post racial society, and talking about race makes people uncomfortable and it takes courage,” she said. “But they will do it if you push them a little bit. So it’s time to push people into that courageous conversation about race.”

To help do that, Roehl says she wants to travel around the state to help teachers learn strategies they can implement in their own classrooms.