Tim Cullen hopes the national recognition he receives in July will spread an idea he started in Janesville.
The National Education Association recently announced it will recognize Cullen as part of its Human and Civil Rights Awards on July 3 at the teachers union’s convention in Houston.
The award recognizes Cullen’s longtime support for education as a state lawmaker and Janesville School Board member, but it also focuses on Cullen’s work with the Janesville Minority Teacher Scholarship.
The program awards scholarships to Janesville high school graduates who commit to applying to work as teachers in Janesville when they finish their degrees. Private donations fund the program, which is independent of the school district.
Cullen was concerned about the growing number of students of color who had few teachers who looked like them.
The first graduate of the program began teaching in Janesville in 2013. Seven people of color are now teaching in the district, and about seven more are still earning their degrees, Cullen said.
The district’s minority enrollment is approaching 30 percent, he said, while the number of minority teachers has increased slightly, to about 2 percent of teachers.
Cullen said the program benefits white students, as well.
“They’re going to go out and work in a very racially diverse world, and if the only person in authority they see in school for 13 years is a white person, that hardly prepares them for the world they’re going to live in,” he said.
Cullen said he hopes some of the thousands of teachers attending the convention will hear about the program and carry the idea back to their districts.
The program has spread in Wisconsin. Cullen worked in the Beloit School District to start a program that is now two years old. Former state lawmaker Jeff Neubauer is working to start one in Racine, and a group in Kenosha also has expressed interest, Cullen said.