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Working for Diversity in STEM Education

Sharon Delesbore

Dr. Sharon Delesbore knows firsthand the importance of diversity—not just in STEM careers, but in STEM classrooms. Now serving as an assistant principal at Hightower High School in Texas, Dr. Delesbore can trace her interest in science and STEM education back to one person: her 10th grade biology teacher. 

“Ms. Williams was the first Black female I saw in a science leadership role who was really knowledgeable and passionate about what she was doing,” Dr. Delesbore recalled. 

Dr. Delebore, who would go on to be the first Black female valedictorian at her high school, attended the University of Houston on a basketball scholarship. There, she studied biology and psychology and decided to go into teaching. She received her first teaching job at a middle school teaching science in a diverse school district.

Making an Impact in the Classroom

The longer she taught, the more she wanted to help her students prepare for STEM education and careers. Later, when she moved to teaching high school, she worked to open a chapter of the Science National Honor Society. 

“I taught at a predominantly Hispanic and African American high school, yet when I looked at the kids in the National Honor Society, they’re not reflective of the population of the school.”

“I taught at a predominantly Hispanic and African American high school, yet when I looked at the kids in the National Honor Society, they’re not reflective of the population of the school,” Dr. Delesbore said. “But I realized that I had a lot of kids that liked and were doing well in science, and that offered us an opportunity. I founded a chapter there, and I intentionally recruited minority students.”

By founding a chapter of the Science National Honor Society, she helped students of color start their STEM paths. In fact, her son—now a college student studying architecture—became chapter president at the school. 

Advocating for Inclusion in STEM 

As Dr. Delesbore advanced in her career and transitioned to leadership and administration roles, she noticed that she was often the only STEM teacher of color in the room. She knew that needed to change. In 1998, she attended the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Conference and was introduced to the Association for Multicultural Science Education (AMSE). An affiliation of NSTA formed in 1989, this organization helps provide a voice for science teachers of color within NSTA. 

“The pandemic has reignited the need for education and equity.”

Dr. Delesbore got involved with the organization right away, advocating for equity and inclusion and ensuring that NSTA addresses these topics and spreads awareness to their vast membership of science teachers. She served as the President of AMSE from 2016 to 2019 and remains on the Board of Directors. She is still very active in the organization’s work. In fact, for Dr. Delesbore, right now is an urgent time to fight for diversity and inclusion in STEM. 

“The pandemic has reignited the need for education and equity,” Dr. Delesbore said. “The pandemic has even more so reignited the spotlight of science and the need for science education. Now that we have governmental leadership that is saying, ‘Trust the science,’ it’s now bringing back the platform for the need to have quality science education.”

Where We Go From Here

For Dr. Delesbore, it’s not enough to bring more diversity to STEM careers—it’s just as important to have a diverse crop of STEM educators. For a diverse and equitable future in STEM, the solution is two-fold.

“But we also must inspire students to become not just teachers, but science teachers, so that our youth can see us in the classroom.”

“We focus on wanting to engage and encourage kids to want to become scientists and become engineers and all the diverse different careers that can come through that,” Dr. Delesbore said. “But we also must inspire students to become not just teachers, but science teachers, so that our youth can see us in the classroom.”

Learn more about AMSE here.

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