The creation of school choice options in education have created opportunities for professional development within schools that have a changing demographic. School choice vouchers are an alternative in Ohio that help families living in failing school districts attend private schools by paying for tuition with the state funded voucher. Youngstown City Schools located in Youngstown, Ohio is a failing public school system where Valley Christian Schools is located. Valley Christian Schools has seen a change in the demographic of their student body over the past decade since vouchers became available. VCS went from a middle class tuition paying school, to a school where 90% of students attend utilizing a state funded voucher and 75% of students are designated as living in poverty.
The changes in the student body have created a need for teachers to understand the culture of poverty, create relationships with students, and teach affectively within the culture of poverty. The current study uses a workshop created to educate teachers about the culute of poverty and guide them to understand their own potential bias which may create barriers to forming meaningful relationships with their students. Once those relationships can be fostered in a healthy manner, teachers will be able to help their students achieve skills which increase their opportunity for success.
A workshop was offered to the teachers at Valley Christian Schools. The two-day training included a poverty simulation, education from certified trainers in A Framework for Understanding Poverty (R. K. Payne, 2013), and a session on emotional intelligence. The research collected from the workshop revealed key findings about teacher awareness as it relates to educating students. Teachers developed an understanding about how to guide students to learn and affectively assimilate into the dominant middle-class culture of America (where privilege exists), while not unconsciously disparaging them.