Reimagining Retention for BIPOC Educators - PEBC
BEST group photo - blog post

Reimagining Retention for BIPOC Educators

In the crisp embrace of a fall morning in 2022, PEBC colleagues Sathya, Wendy and I met in a charming Denver coffee shop, each fueled by a shared vision: to move from theory to practice and shake things up in education, through PEBC. As educators of color, Sathya and I resonated deeply with the absence of representation in STEM—a void that begs to be filled. Delving into the stark reality of underrepresentation, we uncovered unsettling truths: a mere 18.5% of teachers reflect the diversity of our student body. We know the transformative power that BIPOC educators can offer to schools and communities – and also recognize the unique challenges that educators of color face working in predominantly white spaces. From survival-induced assimilation to racial battle fatigue, these factors impact BIPOC professionals at a disproportionate rate, thus jeopardizing various aspects of their health and longevity. If we want to support and sustain BIPOC educators, what might we do?

This question propelled us forward, igniting the creation of the BIPOC Educational STEM Thinkers (B.E.S.T.) Conference—a holistically safe space for BIPOC STEM educators. The mission of B.E.S.T. is to amplify voices, cultivate capacity, and foster belonging and joy in STEM. Here is our theory of action:

The core tenets of the BEST Conference are awareness, belonging, change, and healing. These components were identified by Sathya and I as we reimagined what supports and systemic shifts might be necessary for our general longevity in the edusphere. As the visual above demonstrates, authentic awareness and belonging must be cultivated before change can occur. When change occurs as a result of awareness and belonging existing, healing becomes achievable. Oftentimes, change is thought to be the utmost goal; however, it is critical to identify what conditions must exist

The inaugural B.E.S.T. Conference launched on June 24 – 25, 2023, and was hosted by our partner the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) and stands as a testament to our collective commitment to reimagining the possibilities to address systemic needs within education. We created a communal space, where BIPOC educators could shine, share, and shape the future of education. After our two days together. participants formed year-long affinity groups who meet monthly to offer community, share resources, cultivate professional capacity, and heal. We are looking forward to our second B.E.S.T. Conference in June 2024, again at DMNS.

What is B.E.S.T.?
B.E.S.T. stands for BIPOC Educational STEM Thinkers, an annual conference dedicated to supporting and retaining BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) educators and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals. It is a gathering centered around community, joy, and STEM advancement. Additionally, B.E.S.T. offers monthly affinity groups that focus on book studies and change-making, providing an ongoing support system beyond the conference.

Why are we hosting B.E.S.T.?
The educator shortage is a pressing issue, particularly concerning BIPOC representation. Hosting the B.E.S.T. Conference helps address this gap by providing support and resources tailored specifically to BIPOC educators and STEM professionals.

How have participants and stakeholders responded to B.E.S.T.?
The impact of the B.E.S.T. Conference has been profound, as evidenced by the enthusiastic response from participants and stakeholders. Some key takeaways are as follows:

  • The 2023 B.E.S.T. Conference set a record at the museum for the largest gathering of BIPOC individuals, highlighting the significant presence and impact of the event.
  • Tears of joy were observed within the first hour of the conference, underscoring the emotional resonance and importance of creating a supportive space.
  • Participant demographics reveal a diverse range of attendees, with 41% being early childhood educators and 66% having over 10 years of experience in their respective fields.
  • Remarkably, 100% of participants highly recommend the B.E.S.T. Conference, emphasizing its effectiveness and value.
  • Affinity group feedback further affirms the positive impact of B.E.S.T., showcasing the sense of community, capacity, and support fostered through ongoing engagement.

Click here to learn more about B.E.S.T.’s impact

How can you support B.E.S.T.?
There are various opportunities for support. Use the acronym S.A.D. to help you remember:

Share: Whether you invite someone directly or share with your networks, getting the word out about the conference, affinity groups, and overall support available is pivotal for our ecosystem.

Attend: Do you identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color)? If yes, you are welcome! If you don’t, feel free to share with someone who does, so that they can experience community, collaboration, and joy in STEM!

Donate: Access and sustainability are vital for this effort! Please consider donating, as this will mitigate financial barriers for teachers, STEM professionals, or community members who might want to attend but don’t have the personal or professional funds to do so. Your dollars make a difference!

The B.E.S.T. Conference serves as a beacon of support and empowerment for BIPOC educators and STEM professionals, addressing critical needs within these communities and fostering a culture of belonging and advancement. If you would like to explore some of the synthesizing stories and reflections from this past year, download and explore our Collection of Reflections!

B.E.S.T. Conference Event Page | Collection of Reflections ‘23-24 | B.E.S.T. ‘23 Infographic