Lack of Black educators a major concern for elementary teachers' union


Dozens of teachers and other stakeholders met in Toronto on Saturday to address what they says is a lack of representation of Black educators in Ontario classrooms.

Educators, the Ontario Principals' Council, community members and academics attended the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO)'s symposium, which was held at Hyatt Regency on King Street West.

"We're finding that some of our students are not seeing themselves in the teachers or the educators that are working in the front of the classrooms across the province," ETFO's first vice president David Mastin told CBC Toronto.

"We're bringing forward a lot of people, bringing together a lot of people to have a discussion about how we can improve that."

Mastin could not provide data about the number of Black teachers in the province. He said this is one of the things ETFO will ask all of the stakeholders — including the Ontario government — to address.

"[We will ask them] to keep data, to keep statistics on what is out there right now so that we understand the magnitude of the problem," he said.

"We know the problem, we know it's there, [but] we don't have the data necessarily."

Mastin said teachers are the people that students and parents look to for guidance — not just from a curriculum perspective, but also for their values. This leaves a "massive gap" for not only Black students who perform better with a Black teacher, but for all students.

"They need that diversity, they need that broad perspective on what makes Ontario and what makes Canada and this world amazing," he said.

Representation hasn't improved: teachers

Tyrone Russell, a teacher in Waterloo region, says he's had only one Black educator throughout the time he was a student.

After working as a teacher for almost 20 years, he says the situation has not changed.

"I'm the only one from the last couple of schools that I've been at," Russell said.

"Occasionally there might be one or two others, but we're definitely in the minority. In more than a handful of cases, I've been the only one."