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Millennial Teachers of Color

reviewed by Amanda Vickery - August 15, 2018

coverTitle: Millennial Teachers of Color
Author(s): Mary E. Dilworth
Publisher: Harvard Education Press, Boston
ISBN: 1682531422, Pages: 224, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

When I was a middle school classroom teacher at a Title I school, I once had an administrator inform me that he intentionally placed two Black students returning to our campus from alternative school in my class because “you can handle them.” I was a second-year teacher with 20 more students on my roster than the two white teachers on my team, each of whom had more than a decade of teaching experience. Another time I was in a meeting on recruiting more students of color into one of our school programs when the coordinator suggested that we have football coaches help because “Black boys just want to be professional football players.” In both of these instances I responded with silence because I did not know how to deal with the racist attitudes and structures in schools, a topic never discussed in my teacher preparation courses. I found myself once again unsure of what to do when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s murderer was found not guilty. And again with the murders of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castile. How could I continue teaching as usual when this was weighing on the hearts and minds of my students? Feeling overwhelmed, I cried for each victim and for my students, who were waging their own battles, navigating a dehumanizing school system and society that refuses to acknowledge that Black lives matter. I struggled with this quandary of how, as a young Black woman teacher, do I teach my students to be active citizens in an unjust world?

As a millennial teacher of color (here on abbreviated as MToC) it was both uplifting and affirming to read Millennial Teachers of Color. This book examines the unique perspectives and experiences that MToC bring to the classroom, a group that currently “constitutes 44% of the millennial generation” (Delpit, 2018, p. xiv) and has been overlooked in the research literature and practice. The “browning” of America warrants attention from researchers, educators, administrators, and policymakers so that we can learn not only the positive impact these teachers have on the teaching profession, but also what must be done to better support them in the field. The authors in this book note that this “always connected” and “forward-thinking/collaborative” (Herrera & Morales, 2018, p. 40) generation has grown up with such proximity to a continuous stream of news and information at their fingertips, and that this has certainly impacted how they approach teaching. Freeman (2018) argued that by having such varied interests and beliefs combined with their ability to use technology allows them to create information-rich learning environments that effectively use technology to enhance instruction and bring the outside world into the classroom. This new generation of teachers is comfortable working together across multiple communities, continents, and spaces while speaking about local, national, and global issues from a humanizing and justice-oriented perspective.

More importantly, this book sheds light on how MToC are navigating school spaces while drawing on their cultural knowledge to combat the oppressive forces that, for some, “othered” them when they were K-16 students. Collectively, the authors argue that care must be taken not to overgeneralize this diverse group, and that we must pay attention to the complexities of culturally and linguistically diverse teachers and what they face as pre- and inservice teachers. Dilworth (2018) notes that the purpose of this work is to “probe beneath the surface to recognize and explain how the current generation of teachers of color may have a distinctly different mind-set than their predecessors and white peers” (p. 2). By utilizing a framework of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989), the chapter authors explore how different social locations (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, religion, immigration status, language, ability, etc.) intersect and cause qualitatively and quantitatively different experiences for MToC.

A number of scholars contend that MToC have the potential to positively impact student learning and transform the teaching profession; however, this can only happen if teacher preparation programs and schools prioritize ways to fully understand how “race, culture, language, and class impact millennial students and teacher identity” (Herrera & Morales, 2018, p. 43). Through the use of testimonials, narratives, and interviews, the book suggests that K-16 schools often fail to meet the needs of MToC. It is clear from the research presented throughout the book that although motivated by ideals of justice, the field as a whole does not have the “systems and infrastructure necessary to cultivate, celebrate, and commit to this new teaching talent” (Catone & Tahbildar, 2018, p. 73). The authors in this collective include the voices of MToC currently in the field who share experiences of being woefully unprepared to navigate a bureaucratic system of education permeated by whiteness while trying to fulfill their social justice purpose (Ishmael, et. al., 2018). These teachers note how many of their teacher preparation programs did not prepare them to navigate racist policies and practices or to operate in such restrictive environments while maintaining their creative agency (Author, under review; Brown & Ward, 2018). One teacher recalled a feeling of being forced to leave their race and cultural identity at the door in order to be successful in the eyes of administrators and other teachers.

Therefore, the field must explore ways to create spaces within teacher preparation programs for teachers to explore the multiple intersections of their identities and how these can be used to guide their curricular and pedagogical decisions. While authors such as Catone and Tahbildar (2018) explore how Latinx millennial culturally and linguistically diverse teachers found the strength and resilience through cultural communities to persevere, we must also consider students who were unable to find a community of support, or who refused to conform and perpetuate whiteness and left the field. The loss of human capital has yet to be documented and demonstrates the urgency and necessity of transforming preparation programs and schools to become safe and welcoming spaces rather than forcing MToC to conform and assimilate within the existing structures.

That is why this book is relevant at this particular moment due to the hyper-politicization of teaching as well as the harmful rhetoric being used to denigrate women, immigrants, those with disabilities, and Communities of Color. With far-right extremists being offered a public platform, MToC have taken to the streets and cyberspace to combat white supremacist policies and rhetoric. Education, once considered the great equalizer, has become a space MToC view as ground zero in the fight for equity and social justice, and they have entered the profession to help create a better world. To many MToC, “the personal is political” (Combahee River Collective, 1977), and they embrace the vision that “teachers are activists” and their role is to “cultivate opportunities to humanize their students, if only for a moment” (Catone & Tahbildar, 2018, p. 84). Many authors within this book share stories of resistance, resilience, hope, but also frustration as many MToC are left on their own to figure out how to harness their incredible desire to do what is best for their students and communities while also navigating the bureaucratic structure of the education system. These teachers are resisting despite teaching in spaces where “it feels as if the world does not see you or recognize you for your human being, this produces an anxious apprehension of and about the world” (Catone & Tahbildar, 2018, p. 76).

As a MToC I could not help but feel a connection to the teachers whose stories are presented in this book; I related to their struggles attempting to balance the needs of students while dismantling the hidden curriculum by utilizing a culturally sustaining pedagogy (Paris & Alim, 2017). As a teacher educator I was both inspired by the stories of resilience and led to question whether I am doing enough to fully support and prepare MToC for the reality of teaching in such hostile spaces. That is, in part, the power of this book: it can be used by many people for different purposes. It can be used to affirm the experiences of MToC, or by school officials and administrators to understand this new generation of teachers in order to create supportive teaching environments and meaningful opportunities for professional development (King, 2018).

In sum, Millennial Teachers of Color serves as a wake-up call and illustrates that more must be done if teacher preparation programs and school districts want to grow and retain this highly educated and talented group of teachers. One area that still needs to be explored in the research literature is how MToC have created their own safe spaces outside of schools via social media that aids their intellectual work and provides them with a sense of community that is absent from their teaching environments. #EduColor and #HipHopEd are hashtags and communities that provide educators a safe space to connect across the globe and learn from one another. These online spaces and communities demonstrate how MToC are continuing their work outside the confines of the white gaze of schools. While the authors in this book have brought necessary attention to MToC, it is my hope that the readers will heed the the call to critically reexamine their own practices and programs and learn from these incredible young teachers and their work to create a more equitable and just world.


Brown, K.D. & Ward, A.M. (2018). Black preservice teachers on race and racism in the millennial era: Considerations for teacher education. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. 89–103). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.


Catone, K.C. & Tahbildar, D. (2018). Ushering in a new era of teacher activism: Beyond hashtags, building Hope. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. 73–88). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.


Combahee River Collective (1995). A Black feminist statement. In B. Guy-Sheftall (Ed.), Words of fire: An anthology of African-American feminist thought (pp. 232–240). New York, NY: The New Press.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1),139–167.

Delpit, L. (2018). Foreward. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. xiii–xv). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.


Dilworth, M. E. (Ed.). (2018). Millennial teachers of color. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Freeman, H. R. (2018). Millennial teachers of color and their quest for community. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. 63–72). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Herrera, S. G. & Morales, A. R. (2018). Understanding “me” within “generation me”: The meaning perspectives held toward and by millennial culturally and linguistically diverse teachers. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. 39–62). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Ishmael, S., Kuranishi, A. T., Chavez, G. A., & Miller, L. A. (2018). Stagger Lee: Millennial teachers’ perspectives, politics, and prose. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. 39–62). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

King, S. H. (2018). Advancing the practices of millennial teachers of color with the EquityEd Professional Learning Framework. In M. E. Dilworth (Ed.), Millennial teachers of color (pp. 105–124). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (Eds.). (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 15, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22471, Date Accessed: 11/29/2021 9:13:13 AM

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About the Author
  • Amanda Vickery
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    AMANDA E. VICKERY is an assistant professor of teacher preparation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in elementary social studies methods. Her research focuses on how Black women teachers utilize experiential and community knowledge to reconceptualize the construct of citizenship. Her scholarship has been published in Theory and Research in Social Education , Urban Education, Journal of Social Studies Research, Gender and Education, The High School Journal, Social Studies Research and Practice, and The International Journal of Multicultural Education. Dr. Vickery is active in the social studies community, serving on the Executive Board of the College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) as the Social Justice Chair and board liaison to the Scholars of Color Faculty Forum of CUFA. She is a former middle school social studies teacher.
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