Diversity: Student populations tend to be much more diverse than the teaching profession. According to federal data, 40 percent of K-12 students are not white, compared to just 17 percent of teachers. Cunningham noted what message she thought it sent when a black child enters a STEM classroom any given year and only sees white teachers.
Empowerment: Not in the sense of holding authority over your students, but in the sense that teachers, helping to shape the nation’s youth—and the nation’s future—push themselves to improve.
Challenge: Teaching doesn’t lack for professional difficulties (reread the first few paragraphs of this post if you’ve forgotten). But there’s also the challenge of finding ways to ensure all students are learning, the panelists said. That might be especially true for those teaching students with special needs, or English-language learners, or students just starting the class year behind their peers.
Fulfillment: There were a few dozen easily quotable snippets from all the panelists about how great it is to know that you’re reaching a student, and how rewarding it is. That doesn’t put food on the table, they noted, but it feels really good.