In response to the nationwide teacher shortage, Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy at Beeber is breaking new ground with a unique initiative. In a first-of-its-kind program, juniors, like Damani Knox, are not just students; they’re educators.

Knox, an eleventh-grader, expressed the significance of being part of this groundbreaking effort: “I feel like I’m part of something big. A change that’s gonna happen in Philly and hopefully all over America.”

The career and technical education program, certified by Pennsylvania, engages about two dozen juniors four times a week. They don’t merely assist; they lead classes. According to Gabriel Kuriloff, assistant principal for SLA Beeber, this approach surpasses traditional teaching assistant programs, fostering remarkable student engagement.

Aiming to address the lack of diversity in the teaching profession, the program seeks to establish a student-to-teacher pipeline, particularly focusing on Black and Brown students. Partnering with Temple University’s College of Education and the Center for Black Educator Development, the initiative aims to reshape the teaching landscape in Philadelphia.

For students like Ronald Smith, who has experienced the impact firsthand, the program transcends career choices. “We’re trendsetters, you know,” says Knox, capturing the pioneering spirit of this transformative educational venture.