Scholarship program creates opportunities for students, teachers

60 Wisconsin educators named as 2020 Educators of Promise
Scholarship program creates opportunities for students, teachers

For many students high school is a place of self-discovery, and for three former Janesville students those four years paved the way to their future career.

Nicole Washington, Daniel Jackson and Jared Fox are the first of three former students to be hired as teachers through the district’s multicultural scholarship.

“No matter what life throws at you, you just stick to it. Set your eyes on the prize of what you want and you can do it,” said Nicole Washington, teacher at Harrison Elementary School.

That?s the same message that pushed Washington to complete college and the same one she now teaches her students.

“I remember when I was growing up I never had an African American teacher and someone to relate to. So that was a good feeling, that I can be that face,” Washington said.

The Multicultural Teacher Opportunities Scholarship Program was started in 2008 by Sen. Tim Cullen. The private scholarship fund, geared toward minority students, gives them the opportunity to go to college.

Upon graduation, if the district offers the students a job, they are required to accept a teaching position within the Janesville School District. The program is designed to increase the number of minority teachers in Janesville to reflect the diversity of its students.

“Just being a source of encouragement. A beacon of hope in the sense of, I see people that look like me that I can reach that same level that they do,” Jackson said.

Daniel Jackson has been teaching at Edison Middle School since 2012. Now with 23.5 percent of minority students making up the district and 4 percent of the teachers reflecting that population, Jackson said it all comes down to the students.

“To see support from the district and progressing. They’re adapting to the change which is important, because the most important part about everything is the students,” he said.

It?s the change Washington hopes will encourage students of all races to feel comfortable inside the classroom.

“You may be similar but we have a lot of differences. Just making all the kids understand, it’s OK to be different. It’s OK to look different. It’s OK to like different things, just making it the norm,” she said.

The scholarship is funded completely through donations. The district plans to hold a Colors of Education Gala Nov. 1 as a fundraising event for the program. The gala will be held at the Janesville Country Club from 5:30-10:30 p.m.