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“I am Hmong, just like them.”

College Possible senior speaks in support of diverse teachers.

Sherry Xiong, a Washington Technology Magnet High School senior, didn’t think testifying at the Minnesota State Capitol about the importance of hiring and retaining diverse teachers was a big deal, but we do.

At a hearing in March on House File 824, a proposal that would bolster policies and programs in-tended to increase the number of teachers of color in Minnesota, Sherry and another student from Washington Tech shared thoughts on the bill. Sherry remarked on the lack of teachers who looked like her throughout her education.

“I vividly remember having trouble connecting with my teachers, because most have been white,” she said. “I didn’t have any teachers I could fully connect with on a cultural level.”

She has seen the positive effects of teacher representation already. In her fieldwork experience through her Exploring the Teaching Profession high school class, she worked with a class of second-graders — 97 percent of whom were Hmong.

“My first day with my students, I was able to bond with them and build relationships with them because I am Hmong, just like them,” she recalled. “If school districts could recruit more diverse teachers, I think that would be beneficial to students.”

Sherry remembered an experience during third grade that showed her how much of a difference teachers can make in students’ lives. “Mr. B, my third grade teacher, put me in speech class because he thought I didn’t know English, but I did! I was just quiet and shy,” she recalled. “We [the students in the class] became very good friends. I am still so thankful for being put in this speech class because I improved a lot with my speech skills and as time passed, I started communicating with my peers and teachers.”

Without that teacher and that experience, she felt she wouldn’t be where she is today, including her aspiration to teach. “I want to impact people’s lives for the better,” Sherry said.

Sherry’s future plans are bright. She has committed to attend Luther College in the fall and is ecstatic about the journey ahead. “I did a tour and it was great! I loved the campus. It’s a close-knit environment and I’m excited to get involved in student organizations. I want to be very involved on campus,” she said.

Sherry’s College Possible coach, Robin, has no doubt about her ability to succeed at Luther.

“Sherry already pushes herself to take on so many challenges and leadership roles at school, the best part of being her coach has been supporting her by sharing her story and presenting her accomplishments.”

“At Luther, she’ll have a small community and can keep finding those leadership opportunities. I’m excited to hear what Sherry accomplishes!”

Energized, enthusiastic and driven, Sherry wants to be an elementary school teacher someday. While the future is wide open, she’s interested in coming back to teach in St. Paul because she values her community.

by Morgan Bartlett

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