State school board is intensifying its effort to diversify school faculty

Jen Kirmes, executive director of teaching and learning, Illinois State Board of Education, says “affinity groups” are meant to support Black and brown teachers and encourage them to stay in their jobs. (WJBC file photo)

By Dave Dahl

SPRINGFIELD – If your child is in school, it’s likely his or her teacher is a white woman. So the Illinois State Board of Education is trying to make the faculty look more like the student body.

Teacher mentors will convene teachers of color into “affinity groups” around the state, ISBE’s executive director of teaching and learning, Jennifer Kirmes, says, “This is about retention, and so we would hope to see that the participants in these groups are fulfilled by them, and the evidence of that is they are able to stay in their positions, stay in the profession, and that this makes teaching more sustainable for them personally.”

Kirmes says Black and brown kids don’t see a Black or brown teacher, they may not be encouraged to pursue a teaching career.

Dave Dahl can be reached at


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