Diversity Dinner Dialogue Drives Discussion for Local Teachers

Date Published: 
Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Addressing the demands of multicultural and economically diverse classrooms is a growing concern for educators nationwide. Racial diversity is rising among students, while diversity of the teacher workforce remains low. In this environment, training teachers to operate effectively in schools of the 21st century is paramount.

In pursuit of this goal, Dr. Clare Merlin, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, and Dr. Bill Anderson, head of community relations at the College of Education, developed the Diversity Dinner Dialogues, an initiative with Stoney Creek Elementary of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

“The purpose of our Diversity Dinner Dialogue was twofold,” said Merlin. “First, to improve the multicultural knowledge and awareness of both elementary educators and university educators so that we all better meet the needs of K-12 students. Second, to bring together those two groups of educators to dialogue honestly about multicultural education in schools.”

Funded by the UNC Charlotte Chancellor’s Diversity Grant, the dinner brought the groups together to discuss “Rac(e)ing to Class,” by H. Richard Milner IV, a book meant to help educators learn how to more effectively confront poverty and race in schools.

“Multicultural awareness is such a central component of effective teaching, so it is important to have researchers and practitioners discussing realistic ways to be culturally responsive to all K-12 students,” said Merlin.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)’ (2013) predicted that students of color will soon exceed 50 percent of all public school students, and this percentage is expected to continue increase.

There are also large disparities between the racial makeup of K-12 students and teachers in CMS.


African Americans


Hispanics or Latinos





A Schools and Staffing Survey (2013) found that even though racial diversity among students throughout the nation is increasing, the racial diversity of teachers, administrators and student support staff remains heavily Caucasian.


African Americans


Hispanics or Latinos





Given these disparities between the racial makeup of K-12 students and teachers, faculty members of the College of Education felt the dinner dialogue was a great opportunity to partner with a local elementary school with a diverse student body and faculty makeup, to address this issue.

“Rac(e)ing to Class” challenges school leaders and teachers to think about race and poverty—and how they can better serve their students. Milner provides detailed accounts how students of color who are living in poverty have different experiences in school because of their circumstances. He proposes practices for teachers to use to create the best educational opportunities for those students. Through established literature, new research and case studies referenced throughout the book, Milner simultaneously sheds light on the experiences of students of color living in poverty, while identifying educational strategies teachers can implement around their students’ restrictive circumstances.

“The College of Education feels it is our responsibility to assist our local school districts via many different initiatives that will enable educators, be they classroom teachers, facilitators and school administrators to have the right tools in their tool box which will effectively equip them with the best practices to assist students and families reach their greatest educational potential,” said Anderson.

“By bringing together both groups of educators, we can collaborate more effectively to better address diversity and meet the needs of our students,” said Merlin. “Elementary educators are faced with those needs every day, and COED educators are researching those needs and preparing future educators who will encounter those needs daily.”

by: SheVan Alston