Diarese George is a young, intelligent, well-dressed native of Clarksville, TN who is generous with his story: He turned the “inequities that followed him from kindergarten through college” into a job—recruiting and retaining educators of color. George is the director of recruitment at the Nashville Teacher Residency, a non-traditional teacher preparation program. In his “spare” time, the ambitious George is the Founder and Chairman of a new nonprofit, a statewide initiative called Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance (TECA) that will launch in earnest at its inaugural conference later this month.
But to understand his work today, you’ve got to know a little about his background. After leaving a for-profit college as a student advisor, George landed a teaching job in his hometown’s school district and, to his surprise, discovered his calling. He spent the next five years teaching students in a well-funded school that was completely different from the schools he attended as a child. As a lead instructor for the Business and Finance Academy, the relatively new teacher witnessed the striking inequity of school resources—from the school buildings to the types of classes offered—due almost entirely to geography. Those differences served as the inspiration for George’s dedication to removing the roadblocks—systemic barriers—that hinder the success of students of color.
“It’s An Everybody Problem”
Even though he grew up in Clarksville, he had no idea that such inequity existed. But what struck harshest was the scarcity of teachers of color, the absence of models for students of color who desperately needed to see positive possibilities for their own lives. He says, “it’s not a Black problem, it’s not a Brown problem. It’s an everybody problem,” He figured the most useful thing he could become would be a ‘gatekeeper’. He sees so many barriers to opportunities because the gatekeepers are typically not people of color. He crafted a plan to put himself in the position where he could open the gate and let more qualified people of color into the classroom. “That’s the beauty of being a gatekeeper,” he said. George is out to change the narrative for recruiting educators of color, particularly those whose misfortunes and mistakes preclude them from a fighting chance of entering the profession.
First, he built an academic arsenal with an MBA and doctorate including completion of three highly esteemed Tennessee fellowships. There would be little room for anyone to doubt his education or experience and any attempt to do so would be an exercise in futility. Diarese George is a man on a mission. Armed with business and school-level experience, education and fellowship work, and an iPhone packed with the right contacts, the mission aligned perfectly to his day job where he is tasked with bringing a more diverse set of teachers to the profession.
Making It Difficult For Those Who Claim They Can’t Find Quality Candidates of Color
At the time of our interview, George, without even a hint of bravado, noted that the fall cohort is on track to have upwards of 80 percent people of color, a marked increase from the graduating class of 2017. When not at work, he is working on building Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance with his impressive board and working out the logistics for the conference with attendance numbers that have already exceeded expectations.
George already has a vision for positioning Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance as the premier entity for offering networking and fellowship opportunities, creating a collective voice to influence policy conversations, and providing pathways to leadership for educators of color. Simply, he wants to make it difficult for hiring pros to make excuses for finding quality candidates of color, while ensuring they remain in the profession.
Dr. George will host the first annual Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance conference Saturday, February 24, 2018. I can’t wait to attend!