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New Program Aims to Close Diversity Gap for Durham Public Schools Teaching Force

Durham Teaching Fellows


DURHAM, NC - As the student population in America grows increasingly diverse, the teaching force has failed to keep pace. However, a new pilot program in Durham Public Schools (DPS) aims to close this diversity gap in the local teaching ranks.

The Durham Teaching Fellows program, a joint proposal from Durham Public Schools, local nonprofit Student U, and the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, will recruit and prepare current Durham Public Schools students of color who, upon completing college, will return to work for Durham Public Schools. 

“The Durham Teaching Fellows program is a long-term solution to a systemic challenge: the majority of people entering the teaching profession do not reflect the diversity of our community,” said Dr. Pascal Mubenga, superintendent of Durham Public Schools. “We are making a commitment here at home, among today’s DPS students, to nurture a new generation of teachers.”

The 2018-2023 DPS Strategic Plan has explicitly stated its goal of attracting and retaining outstanding educators and staff, with the aim of increasing the Latinx teacher cohort to ten percent by 2023 (up from its current level of three percent). However, because of the low wages in the profession and the significant cost of higher education, potential teachers who are non-white are less likely to enter the teaching profession. Further efforts are required to pave the way for this dream to become a reality, and it is within this environment that the Durham Homegrown Teaching program will take root.  “While this is a long-term approach, and we have a long way to go in terms of Latinx representation among our educators, DPS’ Human Resources Department is thrilled to embark on this journey to attract and recruit students of color to careers in teaching,” said DPS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Arasi Adkins.

Informed by research conducted by the Educational Policy Working Group at the Cook Center, the Teaching Fellows program will identify DPS students during their junior or senior year of high school who choose to attend any school in the state’s university system and provide them with the following opportunities:

  • A structured service-learning class, designed by DPS and Student U. The class, to be taken during high school, will explore the educational landscape of Durham, the teaching profession, relevant pedagogy, and intersections of teaching and racial/social justice while providing students weekly volunteer time with DPS and Student U’s after-school programs
  • A tuition supplement to guarantee students graduate from college debt-free
  • A yearly teaching residence in Student U’s five-week summer academy
  • Guaranteed employment in DPS upon completion of school and passing teaching licensure assessments
  • A variety of experiential learning opportunities throughout college to provide increased exposure to educational models from both across the U.S. and abroad
  • For fellows’ entire first year of teaching, sustained professional development and comprehensive support from both Student U and DPS in a cohort model

By March 2020, the program plans to have recruited its first cohort of 10-20 DPS students. In the long-term, the program envisions building out five cohorts of fellows, as well as partnerships with existing local schools of education and, eventually, all seventeen UNC school system universities.

“For the past 13 years, we have worked with hundreds of future teachers through our Summer Academy program, which provides college-age students with two weeks of professional teacher training, weekly mentoring, and coaching from licensed teachers to improve their teaching practice,” said Alexandra Zagbayou, Student Executive Director of Student U. “This partnership will leverage that program, which has produced numerous Durham Teachers of Year, for the betterment of our whole community. We are excited about this partnership and the impact that these Black and Latinx fellows will have on Durham Public School."

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Patricia Hollingsworth at 919-560-2603 Ext. 21690 or at  For more details, click here to download the full proposal.

About the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University 

The Duke Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity is a scholarly collaborative engaged in the study of the causes and consequences of inequality and in the assessment and redesign of remedies for inequality and its adverse effects. Concerned with the economic, political, social and cultural dimensions of uneven and inequitable access to resources, opportunity, and capabilities, Cook Center researchers take a cross-national comparative approach to the study of human difference and disparity. Ranging from the global to the local, Cook Center scholars not only address the overarching social problem of general inequality, but they also explore social problems associated with gender, race, ethnicity, and religious affiliation. For more information, visit

About Student U

Student U is a community organization that uses the power of education, advocacy, and leadership to build a just and equitable Durham. We empower and equip first-generation college students in Durham Public Schools, their families, and their educators to become the leaders that will transform our city for the better. We support this transformation with an approach that combines three key elements: our whole-families approach to college access and success programming; our place as an innovation hub for developing and sharing best practices in education; and our commitment to supporting student- and family-led advocacy and change efforts in our city. Together, we’re creating a Durham where all students succeed.