LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sitting in an empty classroom, Adrienne Abrams taught students about Crispus Attucks for Black History Month. Even while Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is in NTI, Abrams said it is important to have teachers of all races and backgrounds.

“I really think it’s important for students to see people who look like them, who have maybe gone through the same experiences as them, come from the same neighborhoods and all of that,” Abrams said.

What You Need To Know

  • Kentucky's largest school district is making an effort to increase teacher diversity

  • JCPS's Louisville Teacher Residency program gives people who already have a Bachelor's degree the opportunity to get a Master's in education in just one year while working with a host teacher

  • After finishing the program, participants will lead a classroom of their own

  • Leaders said a main goal is to get more Black teachers in Louisville classrooms

She's been spending this year leading a Semple Elementary class through NTI. She's not currently a JCPS teacher, but she will be soon. Her Bachelor's degree is actually in business.

“It was great for a while, but I felt like something was kind of missing. When I left that world, I thought I was kind of floating," Abrams said. "I had a friend who said 'you know you are good with kids. Why don’t you try to get a job with JCPS.' I said really? I had just never thought about that.”

Her mother was a teacher, so Abrams spent a lot of time in classrooms growing up. She decided her friend may be right, so she started working as an assistant at Semple Elementary.

It wasn't long before leaders there said she should think about becoming a teacher. While that sounded great, she didn't have a degree in education.

“Being an established woman in a career before, I didn’t want to wait five or six years to obtain a degree. Your Master’s is usually about two, but when you are working on top of it, it could take longer,” Abrams said.

Around this time last year, JCPS started taking applications for its new Louisville Teacher Residency program. The program gives people who already have a Bachelor's degree the opportunity to get a Master's in education in just one year. Plus, they spend time in the classroom working with a host teacher.

"When the LTR program came along, I thought, how could I pass that up? I can’t pass that up,” Abrams said.

Program director Sylena Fishback said a main goal is to get more Black teachers in Louisville classrooms.

“The Louisville teacher residency program was kind of birthed from the Racial Equity policy. Definitely our first goal was including diverse teachers in the classroom and having teachers of color, which represent the demographics of the students in our district,” Fishback said.

Another goal is to help equip the soon-to-be teachers with skills needed to be successful in an urban school district. It's something Fishback said will benefit both students and the whole community.

“The first thing we are doing is making sure our teachers are not only capable, but confident in facilitating those tough discussions in the classroom,” Fischback said.

Abrams and others in the program will graduate with a Master's in education from UofL this summer. After that, they will be ready to lead a JCPS classroom of their own next year. With that being said. JCPS is now looking for interested applicants for year two of the program.

Fishback said it is open to anyone with a Bachelor's degree with a 2.75 GPA or higher. You can also have a 3.0 on your last 30 credit hours. JCPS is holding virtual information sessions for those interested. Those will be from 5-6 p.m. Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 9, March 23 and April 6.

Anyone interested in attending an information session can register by emailing louisvilleteacherresidency@jefferson.kyschools.us or shunzetta.littleton@jefferson.kyschools.us. You can also learn more about the program on the JCPS website.

To learn more about Black History Month in Kentucky, please visit our special section.