In a Diverse Classroom, Does a Teacher’s Background Matter?

By Keirra Woods and Raeniah Windfield

Editor’s Note: Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) recently hired a white teacher to teach cultural studies courses at the new Gaston Middle School in Southwest Fresno. Some community leaders expressed outrage over the decision and asked for FUSD to consider hiring a person of color instead. The kNOw’s Keirra Woods, 17, and Raeniah Windfield, 16, spoke with local teachers at Fresno High about their experience teaching students of various ethnic backgrounds and asked them the following question: Is it easier to relate to students of the same or different cultural background?


Name: Mr.Brown

Subject: Math

“To me, it doesn’t matter but I can tell it matters to students because they talk about other teachers or other classes they have. Since African-American students can relate to me a little more, there are certain things I can tell them or ways I can approach them that other people wouldn’t feel comfortable with.”


Name: Mr. Thao

Subject: Math

“It definitely is easier because we share some of the same issues at home and the same understanding about what’s going in our culture. They know some of the things I have been through and I know what they go through.”


Name: Mrs. Martinez

Subject: Modern World History

“It is easier because then you have something in common to talk to them about. It’s easier to connect than it is with somebody who doesn’t have the same background as you because you don’t find that common ground. I’m Mexican so any Latino students that I have can talk to me in Spanish and they feel a lot more comfortable with me.”


Name: Mr. Hoe

Subject: American Government

“I never consider that. I don’t see color; I just see kids. Actually I prefer a mixed group of kids because you get different perspectives. Dominican kids see things one way, Mexican kids see things one way and African American kids see things another way so you get a variety of opinions through a variety of life experiences.”

Tim Haydock (he/him/his)
After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Communication from Fresno Pacific University and a Master’s in Theology and Film from Fuller Theological Seminary, Tim returned to his hometown community in Fresno. He spent over 5 years teaching courses on media production and theory at Fresno State University and Fresno Pacific University and was the academic advisor for the Fresno Pacific University student newspaper.

Tim joined his passions for storytelling, education and social justice in January, 2014 when he started running The kNOw Youth Media in Fresno. In May of 2016, Tim became Director of YouthWire, where he led four youth media programs across the state. In the two years Tim was director, YouthWire printed over 200,000 newspapers distributed in dailies across the state, sent reporters to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, was featured in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Fresno Bee, KQED and The New York Times’ Race/Related newsletter, and led storytelling training for over 75 youth from at least 12 different communities in California.

Tim currently serves on the journalism advisory board for Fresno City College and was a New America CA 2017 Fellow, the first from the Central Valley.

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