There are twice as many students of color, by percentage, as teachers of color in Virginia’s public schools. What’s more, the Commonwealth has the fewest male teachers, proportionately, of any state in the U.S.

The Virginia Education Association recently gathered educators from across the Commonwealth for what was called the “Underrepresented Male Educators Symposium.” It was an effort to brainstorm ways to get more minorities, especially males, into the teaching profession.

Adam Evans teaches at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville. He also trains teachers on how to mentor underrepresented students. He said it’s important to have positive examples in leadership roles.

“I feel like we only owe our students the diversity in which our society has to offer,” Evans said. “You can look at some stats and data that shows you that when you have teachers who are minority and black, they can help students with self confidence, self identification, cultural identification, relating to history and beyond.”

Virginia’s Department of Education partnered with the Virginia Education Association last month for its inaugural minority educator recruitment summit to address teacher shortages and diversity. The event highlighted the importance of diversity in Virginia’s educator pipeline.

Evans said it was inspiring to see a dedicated and collaborative effort to solve a problem.

“To have a task force try to address these things, we don’t expect that something is going to be achieved overnight,” he said. “However, it’s important to make sure we have the right people around the table to be able to provide the positive solutions to making something like that change. ”

The Virginia Department of Education has joined with six other states on the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline Action Group. The goal is to develop a statewide implementation plan to increase diversity in the teaching workforce.

Evans said one possible solution is to figure out a way to let teachers tell their stories.

“As educators, we haven’t really done well with marketing how awesome our jobs are and all the benefits that we are able to provide for our students, their families, society as a whole, community and beyond,” he said.

Some 200 educators attended the symposium, and the various committees and task forces are working to implement their plans to attract more teachers.