ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Educators are always looking for ways to get the most out of students in the classroom and now, a new study shows just how important it is for students of color to have at least one teacher of the same race.
In Minnesota, students of color make up about a third of the student population, while teachers of color are only 4 percent of all teachers.
A new study shows the lifelong impact black teachers can have on black students starting at a young age.
"I think education just has so much power,” said Chioma Uwagwu, a junior at the University of St. Thomas.
Uwagwu has always had a love of learning, but it wasn't until she was in high school that she had a teacher of color and she didn't have an African American one until college.
"I came in with a science major but meeting him and talking with him I realized there's another way to go,” Uwagwu said. “You can be successful in the liberal arts without having to pursue science."
The new study shows black students who had one black teacher were 13 percent more likely to go to college.
The study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and American Universities found that black students who had one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college.
Those who had two black teachers were 32 percent more likely to seek higher education because of the so-called role model effect.
"Children are looking at the world through a lens of who do I see? Who looks like me? What do I think I can do for careers in the future?” asked Dr. Kathlene Holmes Campbell. “In the beginning at a young age 5 or 6, it’s a little more literal. It’s, ‘Oh, I see someone who looks like me maybe I could become a teacher.’”
Dr. Campbell says while the study points out the need for more teachers of color it also illustrates why all teachers need to have high expectations for every student regardless of their race.
"It means teachers have a lot of power and we can impact someone's life 10, 20, 30 years and that's the real take away from this story,” Campbell said.
Uwagwu plans to eventually have a career in the classroom, so she can inspire other students of color to pursue higher education like she did.
"You just have to be satisfied knowing you helped them even if they don't know it,” she said.
Dr. Campbell says while black students need to see more black teachers, white students also need teachers of color in the classroom so they can see people from different backgrounds who are knowledgeable and can be role models for them too.