WHITE PLAINS – Noted educator Dr. Bettye H. Perkins, founder, President and CEO of Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT), was recently honored by Manhattan College with a doctorate’s degree at the 175th spring commencement ceremony for the Class of 2017 graduate and School of Professional Studies students.
The degree in pedagogy recognized Dr. Perkins’ groundbreaking work in the recruitment and retention of teachers of color and the emergence of TSTT’s mentoring approach as a viable model to help close the critical teacher diversity gap in America’s schools.
Dr. Perkins also had the honor of delivering the commencement address for the latest group of graduates of one of the nation’s top ranked Catholic colleges noted for preparing a diverse student population for success, most of whom are first in their family to graduate from college.
She expressed deep gratitude to the Manhattan College community for conferring the honorary degree, her first, and thanked her late mother who “inspired in me and all of her six children how to share and give back, no matter how poor we were.” Dr. Perkins grew up in the segregated South during the struggle for Civil Rights.
Drawing from her personal experience, she shared her path to success which she noted comprised three life lessons known as “Perkins’ Principles.”
The first is “Pray” (Prayer), the power of which inspired her to seek God’s help to find something more meaningful to do when she was a corporate executive. “I felt there was much more that I can do.” She decided on pursuing a new career in education to become a school superintendent, but she soon discovered that God had another plan. “He made me stop to do an internship to help deserving students of color become teachers. And it was there that I discovered my purpose to open doors of opportunities for young people and to give back to society,” she explained.
The second principle is “Purpose.” Citing the renowned preacher Rick Warren and his best-selling book, “The Purpose Drive Life,” Perkins, said: “How miraculous is that God gave to each and every one our own special gift, our own special DNA,” adding: “You were made for a mission.”
The third principle is “Passion.” As an example, Perkins quoted her favorite leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, who said: “Talent is not enough. What you need is Passion.” Dr. Perkins noted: “When you pray for purpose, God will unleash in you something that he knows you care about deeply so you can go into the world and be a missionary and change agent for His good works.”
She concluded her impassioned address: “I Pray that you will find Purpose in your life and that you will use your Passion to go forth and create, change and transform the world.”
The creation of TSTT in 1994 paved the way for what has become recognized by renowned educators and policy makers as a national model to help close the critical teacher diversity gap. TSTT’s full-circle, collaborative teacher of color model has been successfully replicated in four states: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia. To date, TSTT has produced more than 150 alumni teachers, and nearly 1,000 high school and college students are currently in the pipeline to become caring, committed and competent teachers and leaders.
Dr. Perkins work on the recruitment and retention of teachers of color has been published by prominent publications including the Harvard Business School which focused on the significant economic value and the critical social impact TSTT has made on society. More recently, TSTT’s model was featured in “Growing the Next Generation: A Program Encourages Students to Become Teachers” in the September 2016 issue of the American Federation of Teachers’ renowned publication, The American Educator.
A sought-after speaker, Dr. Perkins has served as a panelist at several national conferences on teacher diversity such as the American Institutes for Research conference on “Teachers for the Next Generation” and the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards “Teacher and Learning” conference.
Last year, TSTT continued its leadership position in addressing critical education issues by presenting the first-of-its-kind Workforce Diversity Leadership Forum on the skills gap crisis that is threatening America’s competitiveness in global markets.
Dr. Perkins received a bachelor’s degree in education from North Carolina A&T State University, a master’s degree in education administration from Pace University, and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and urban policy from Fordham University.