By: Essence Money

Diversity is important for a balanced community, especially in schools. Students like to see teachers and principals who look and sound like them – as well as those who are different from them.

The city of Camden has been making strides to become more diverse in their school systems.Niche.com, a website that rates schools on everything from academics to food, rated Camden’s school district with a “B” based on the diversity in the district.

Chenene Kelly, a teacher at Camden’s Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) who also had to put children through Camden school system notices the diversity as a parent and a teacher.

“Coming from a parent’s perspective, I’ve seen diversity amongst the principals and diversity within the teachers. Being a teacher, I have seen a lot of diversity with administration and staff,” said Kelly.

However, there is always room for improvement, especially with a lack of Hispanic teachers.

“I think that it [Camden schooling] could be more diverse,” said Kelly. “I see a lot of Caucasian teachers and black teachers. I don’t see a lot of Hispanic teachers which would be beneficial to our Hispanic students because we have a lot of Spanish-speaking students and it would help with the language barriers especially on a preschool level.”

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Kelly makes sure to have translations for the different activities for all kids to be able to identify. – Photo (Essence Money)

As a teacher Kelly has to make sure that she makes her classroom lessons relatable to every child in her class to help keep them engaged. But, in the instances where she can’t properly communicate with her Spanish-speaking students, it becomes a problem.

“I know a little Spanish but not a lot. It becomes a hindrance to the children’s learning because of the language barrier,” said Kelly.

“Diversity is important to the kids because it allows them to see more than one culture. It exposes them to different backgrounds,” said Kelly.

Principal of ECDC, Loray Dobson, said that the Camden’s school district isn’t as diverse but is moving in a direction to change that.

“Within the last two years you’re starting to see a switch, you’re starting to see a more diverse population with the up-and-coming charter schools and renaissance schools,” said Dobson.

Dobson explained the switch is due to the recruiting for Teach for America, an organization that sends teachers from all over the country to schools in urban areas, who’s getting a more diverse population. While programs like Teach for America allows for faculty to be of different backgrounds the limitation could be that teachers aren’t relatable because they don’t have the first-hand knowledge of dealing with poverty.

“I think that a boot camp that will better prepare teaching in urban areas [could help continue diversity],” said Dobson, “I feel people have the want but not so much the know-how or feel culturally connected enough to be able to do their job successfully. The only way you can do that is to educate.”

“Typically when you have urban areas that don’t open up opportunity and social standards that meet the needs of all, then you are going to be left with individuals who have limited resources,” said Dobson.

Jean Shepard, an assistant teacher at ECDC believes that with tax funding will help contribute to making Camden schools diverse. Shepard has been a teacher in the city’s district for over a decade. She also grew up in Camden and has put children in Camden’s schooling.

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Children can continue to identify with posters like this if given more funding as Shepard mentioned (Essence Money)

“With more tax revenue there could be more support from the families paying taxes,” said Shepard. “The kids could afford the same textbooks and supplies as Haddonfield or Mount Laurel. This could cause a greater impact.”

Shepard also added that with more funding kids will be able to get toys such as dolls and puppets that look more like them, helping them to be relatable and ultimately allowing the children to want to become more engaged.

“We have to prepare them for a world of all kind; social class, abilities, disabilities, ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, celebrations. We have to prepare children for the world of diversity and not just what we can offer here in our 13 mile radius,” said Dobson.

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