Celebrating 10 years of the Urban Diversity Teacher Education Initiative at York

Professor Patrick Solomon never anticipated the impact and success of the Faculty of Education’s Urban Diversity Teacher Education Initiative when this unique project began 10 years ago. Solomon, with initial support from Professor Gary Bunch, and Vice-President Research & Innovation Stan Shapson, who was dean of the Faculty of Education at the time, has developed, implemented and coordinated the initiative since its inception in 1994.


Above: Members of the first graduating class of the Urban Diversity Teacher Education Initiative in 1994

Since then, York’s Faculty of Education has played a pioneering role by providing the structure and support for the development of a unique teacher preparation program that integrates equity, diversity and social justice into its theory and practice. The York-Westview Partnership in the Jane/Finch Community and the Regent Park Community Education Program are widely considered to be hallmarks of York’s Urban Diversity Initiative.

To date over 640 graduates from various heritages and different ethnic and cultural groups have experienced the rich learning environment provided by the Urban Diversity Teacher Education Initiative. Graduates have gone on to implement into their teaching practices many of the philosophies they gained during their year of teacher preparation.

On May 18, alumni, professors and many others who have been integral to the initiative reunited to celebrate 10 years of urban diversity work at York and the schools and communities it serves. The event featured a special recognition ceremony and a variety of student displays, exhibits and presentations. It took place in the TEL Building at York’s Keele campus.

“This event provided the opportunity for members of the ‘Urban Diversity family’ to reminisce and to share their experiences of teaching in a climate of school reform in Ontario. In addition, linking 10 cohorts of graduates should strengthen the Faculty’s alumni endeavours,” said Solomon.

The Urban Diversity Initiative was developed in response to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s challenge to postsecondary institutions offering teacher education to make their programs more relevant and responsive to the province’s growing racial and ethno-cultural populations. York’s Faculty of Education accepted the challenge by providing the structure and support for the development of a unique teacher preparation program that integrated equity, diversity and social justice into all dimensions of its theory and practice.

“Urban Diversity Initiative is a sterling example of the kind of community-based educational initiatives in which the Faculty of Education is engaged,” said Paul Axelrod, York’s dean of the Faculty of Education. “We think that it’s important for students to appreciate the diversity, complexity and richness of the communities in which they will be teaching and residing.”

The objectives of the initiative are to provide an environment in which teacher candidates of various racial and ethno-cultural groups have extended opportunities to develop teaching competencies and professional relationships in a collaborative manner; to integrate multiculturalism, anti-racism and other equity and diversity issues into the curriculum and pedagogy of teacher education; and to develop partnerships among practicum school staff, representatives of community organizations, York’s teacher candidates and teacher educators, in an effort to form a “community of learners.”