Strengthening the Pipeline of Educators of Color

Have you ever felt like the next step on the career ladder was literally calling your name? For long-time BUSD classified educators Kemal Stewart and Nichelle Pete, they were able to heed these calls with the support and resources of a home-grown program called BPACT, or Berkeley’s Pathway to Achieve Credentialed Teachers. This classified-to-certificated pathway pays for aspiring classroom teachers to earn credentials, especially in hard-to-staff areas like STEM and Special Education.

Driven by a commitment to strengthen the pipeline for educators of color, the Berkeley Public Schools Fund is a proud supporter of the BPACT Program.

Stewart had spent years at Willard Middle School, first as an after school program Instructor and then as the Program Coordinator. With so much youth development work under his belt, Stewart felt like the next natural step for him was teaching. He is now a proud 5th grade teacher at Cragmont Elementary.

Meanwhile, Pete had supported BUSD’s Special Education program for years in Berkeley – first as an Instructional Assistant and later as a Behavior Intervention Specialist. She now holds rank as Cragmont’s mild/moderate Special Education Teacher.

For Nichelle, the draw to teaching was more about wanting to have control over what her students really needed, “I wanted to make sure that I was the person making the goals, talking about the support the kids needed because I’d been in the classroom for so long, and I really knew these kids!”

Once they found BPACT, the program was essential to their success. “I always had someone to check in with, bounce ideas off of, and help guide me through the process of becoming a teacher,” described Stewart. “But BPACT really helped me because they were able to pay for tuition, books, and other things I needed, like test prep and tutors…The financials can really get in the way of people trying to take the next step in their education.”

Now in their “first year” of (classroom) teaching, both Pete and Stewart feel the power of their post.  “Now that I’m here at Cragmont,” remarked Stewart, “I just feel like I have a lot to offer. I think it means a lot to have me here, to have someone who looks like me here, someone who talks like me here, and gives students the full educational experience from a new perspective.”

Along a similar vein, Pete summed up her current position, “You have the textbook knowledge and the experience and the conversation and the culture and the perspective to really support the kids. That’s what it’s all about! You’re making the jump – not just for you, and the finances – but for the kids!”

Classified educators interested in learning more about BPACT can contact Katy McCarthy: katymccarthy@berkeley.net