CWU News

LEADER Grant To Help CWU Bolster Teacher Diversity in North Central Washington

An image of a professor assisting a student working on a desktop computer.

The LEADER grant will support teachers across North Central Washington..

Becoming an educator requires teachers to develop trust with their students and possess a detailed understanding of the communities they serve. Recognizing the personal nature of both teaching and learning, Washington state launched the Leaders in Education Advancing Diversity, Equity and Racial justice (LEADER) initiative in 2021 to help diversify its K-12 teacher workforce.

The program’s priority is to better reflect the increasing diversity of Washington’s students and, in doing so, pair students with educators who can meet them where they are in life. Central Washington University’s goal of developing more educators from the same backgrounds as their students aligns nicely with the objectives of the LEADER program, and that cohesion resulted in a two-year planning LEADER grant for the North Central Washington region earlier this year.

The $150,000 funding package will help CWU spearhead this work in the Wenatchee and Moses Lake areas, while also establishing a network of educators and partners to support college students from minoritized communities who are pursuing teaching careers.

CWU Associate Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies Jennifer Dechaine says the project aims to address the ongoing teacher shortage in a number of ways. She helped secure the grant with the help of Mónica Medrano, the regional director of CWU-Wenatchee and CWU-Moses Lake; and Yukari Amos, professor of Education, Development, Teaching and Learning.

“One thing that’s not addressed enough is the number of teachers that are leaving the workforce because they aren’t having a positive experience and don’t feel supported,” Dechaine said. “There’s a major focus on recruiting, supporting, and helping more of our teachers of color thrive both in teacher education, as well as the teaching profession.”

Medrano added that the two-year planning process will seek to develop fresh approaches to teacher recruitment and retention.

“It’s like this uncoupling of what’s been done and what’s been considered right, and asking ourselves how we start new and fresh to make sure we’re providing students with the opportunity to thrive in their pursuit to become educators,” she said. “But also to prepare them to be educators where they are going to be educating. To serve the students in their own communities, wherever they may be.”

The grant will be put to use in researching and analyzing the needs of school districts and communities in the region, then putting together a comprehensive educator diversity workforce plan. Rather than rely on successful plans developed for other regions, the CWU team will look to produce a tailored, local strategy in partnership with the affected communities.

“The biggest factor of success for me will be that we did it collectively with a group of partners that represent all of North Central Washington,” Medrano said. “Community-based organizations, school districts, community colleges, parents, and people who represent the demographics will all help create this plan that fits the needs of the area.”

Once the two-year planning phase is complete, the group may seek additional funding from the LEADER initiative by presenting the finalized plan and laying out the next steps for implementation. Medrano noted this extended discovery and planning period is unusual for this kind of grant, but the additional time will ultimately help the team take the precise, measured actions that are required to deliver the best possible results for the region.

“I’ve never worked on a grant where you get a couple of years to plan,” she said. “Usually we get about three months to plan and then we need results, but this is allowing all of the stakeholders to learn and spend the time necessary to ensure that we reach our goal.”

Media Contact: Rune Torgersen, Department of Public Affairs,,