UC Doctoral Student Seeks to Diversify the Teaching Profession
Holmes Scholar James Stallworth represents a select group of graduate students around the nation who are taking part in a program to prepare future leaders in education.
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover and Lisa Ventre
James Stallworth’s pursuit of an education has led him down many pathways since growing up in Kennedy Heights – from a Cincinnati Public School to prep school to the University of Pennsylvania (where he says he was the second African-American ever to serve as drum major for the school marching band) back home to Cincinnati, where he now lives in Clifton and where, at the University of Cincinnati, he discovered his true calling: a passion for teaching. After earning his teaching certificate and licensure and master’s degree from UC and then spending eight years teaching high school math at Hughes Center, Stallworth is once again a student at UC full-time, pursuing his doctor of education in curriculum and instruction. He also represents a distinctive group of graduate students nationally selected for the Holmes Scholars Program.
The Holmes Scholars program is a network of students of color who are preparing to become professors of education or future leaders of K-12 schools that share partnerships with colleges or universities. These partnerships are working to reform teaching, learning and professional practice in schools and higher education, in line with the goals of the Holmes Partnership, of which the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) is a member. UC President Nancy L. Zimpher served as the first president of the Holmes partnership from 1996-2000.
Stallworth’s personal educational pathway took a dramatic turn when he was just a sophomore at Cincinnati Public’s Walnut Hills High School, when he was awarded a scholarship to Choate Rosemary Hall – a preparatory boarding school located in Wallingford, Conn., for high-achieving students. “Out of the 1,000 students who were there, there might have been around 31 African-Americans, and that pretty much included the town as well,” Stallworth recalls. “It was a tremendous culture shock at times, not just in terms of race, but also financially. Everyone was very nice, but they couldn’t understand that for me, it just wasn’t normal to pick up and fly to Los Angeles for the weekend.”
But that one opportunity led to another: enrollment at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biological basis of behavior and was drum major of the marching band his junior and senior year. He says his undergraduate degree combined studies in psychology, biology and anthropology. The next likely step, he says, would have been medical school to pursue adolescent psychiatry, but on his return to Cincinnati Stallworth says instead, he was drawn to teaching, so he got his preparation at UC and spent eight years as a math teacher at Hughes Center.
He adds that he once again found himself a minority among the other teachers – an issue that stretched beyond race. “I noticed we weren’t seeing many math and science teachers wanting to enter the field. Eight years out of college, I was still the second-or-third youngest teacher in our department.
“I loved teaching. I loved the classroom – you really had to take a shoe horn and pry me out of my classroom, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I might make more of a difference trying to prepare future math teachers,” he says.
Stallworth got some hands-on experience at trying to make a difference this summer, as he served as one of the instructors of the Southwest Ohio Secondary Teaching Academy – a partnership involving UC, Miami University, Xavier University, Cincinnati Public Schools and Princeton City Schools. A $340,000 initiative funded by the Ohio Board of Regents, the program works to encourage students, most of them African-American and urban-Appalachian, to become future high school math teachers. After teaching students at both Miami and UC during the two-week summer program June 16-30, Stallworth will work with the students at 10 Saturday academies through the 2007-2008 academic year.
As he looks ahead to a career in higher education, Stallworth wants to add to the diverse ranks of university professors preparing first-year teachers for their own careers. “There’s so much we can accomplish by having a great, diverse teaching staff serving the population. As we work with these students (taking part in the Southwest Ohio Secondary Teaching Academy), we’re showing them that teaching is not just a matter of waving our arms and throwing out worksheets. They have to understand the material, and that means we, as teachers, must understand the material from every possible angle so that we can reach every student.
“We also want to take a lot of the mystery out of college, so during these Saturday sessions, we’ll be explaining online applications and college entrance essays.”
Stallworth is hoping the teaching academy will get students started on a journey that was as fulfilling as his own. “I think my experience at UC is among the best experiences I’ve ever had because it really has allowed me to shape myself as a person, from a first-year teacher and now to finishing my first year as a doctoral student. UC is once again guiding me as I prepare to help future teachers. I had great experiences in other places, but I always knew I was going to end up back in my hometown, back at UC.”