Growing Our Own

Kazoua Yang in a classroom with students. Kazoua Yang, one of the first students to join the GOO-TD program and teacher assistant at Summit Environmental School, has plans to graduate in December 2019. She says it feels awesome to be so close to reaching her dream of being a teacher.

Wisconsin DWD grant will help UWL, La Crosse School District increase teacher diversity

In 2016, five percent of teachers in the La Crosse School District were multicultural. Yet, almost 26 percent of the district’s nearly 7,000 students were from multicultural backgrounds. A collaborative program that aims to help close that gap just received a boost from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The $21,500 Wisconsin DWD grant will provide funding to support two teacher assistants from the La Crosse School District who are participants in the Grow Our Own-Teacher Diversity (GOO-TD) Program at UW-La Crosse.

The program, a collaboration between the UW-La Crosse School of Education, Professional & Continuing Education and the La Crosse School District, provides financial and other support to underrepresented paraprofessionals and qualified community members in their goals to become certified teachers in Wisconsin.

It ultimately aims to increase teacher diversity in PK-12 school districts.

“It helps ease my worries about going back to school,” says Kazoua Yang, one of the first students to join the GOO-TD program and teacher assistant at Summit Environmental School.

With plans to graduate in December 2019, Yang says it feels “awesome to be so close” to her dream of being a teacher. 

“It has been a long journey, but I have learned so much along the way — not just academically, but also with the way life has changed since I started. I have learned to adjust to being a student, a wife, and a mom.  It’s been incredible,” she says.

The program, which started in 2016, is about meeting the needs of diverse learners, says Mai Chao Duddeck, senior equity advisor/recruiter in UWL’s School of Education who worked with Mark White, human resources director for the school district, to secure the grant. The program is successful, adds Duddeck, because of partnerships, sponsors and private donors from the community. Major partners include: The La Crosse Public Education Foundation, the La Crosse School District, and the City of La Crosse Community Development Block Grant.

The program currently supports four students from underrepresented backgrounds including: multicultural, veterans, single parents, low-to-moderate socioeconomic backgrounds and non-traditional. The program has a waiting list, but expansion is limited by financial resources.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Grow Our Own-Teacher Diversity program can contact the UWL Foundation at 877.895.3863 or foundation@uwlax.edu.