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Inside Woodlawn: Program that recruits teachers of color in danger of ending

“I don't think you'll ever find two black teachers in first grade in the state of Oregon. I think that's like a unicorn,” Woodlawn teacher Anthony Lowery said.

Cristin Severance

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Talk with teachers at Woodlawn Elementary School and it quickly becomes clear there is one educator who many admire and respect.  

Lionel Clegg is something of an institution at Woodlawn. He grew up in the Northeast Portland neighborhood and attended the school as a child. He returned to the school as an adult and has now taught there for 21 years. 

As an African-American man, he’s also a role model to both students of color and his fellow teachers of color.  

“Woodlawn helped me learn to be who I was growing up,” Clegg said. “There was a fourth-grade teacher that I had, her name was Rolia Manyongai, and she was actually the first teacher of color that I ever had. She gave me a great sense of pride about being who I was.” 

Clegg is a rarity in Oregon, which doesn’t have large numbers of black, male teachers. In fact, the state doesn’t have many teachers of color. 

According to a 2018 study, 10% of teachers in Oregon are ethnically diverse compared to nearly 40% of students.  

While the state of Oregon has had difficulty hiring and retaining teachers of color, it is a different story at Woodlawn Elementary School. 

The diverse student body has teachers who look like them which is a point of pride at the school. 

Anthony Lowery, who is also black, teaches first grade alongside Clegg.  

I don't think you'll ever find two black teachers in first grade in the state of Oregon. I think that's like a unicorn,” Lowery said. 

Credit: KGW
Anthony Lowery and Lionel Clegg are both 1st grade teachers at Woodlawn Elementary School.