A Teacher Who Lifts Up Future Teachers

“I was in junior high when I had my first African American teacher,” says Lyndale Garner, M.A., a professor at Las Positas College in the department of Early Care and Education. “I was in awe of her because she was Black, too,” she says.

Professor Garner is an academic partner in the Pipeline for Black Early Childhood Educator Career Development, a collaborative effort between Las Positas College and Children’s Council. Professor Garner has been a faculty member at the college since 2017 who has over 20 years of experience in the early childhood sector. This semester, there are currently 34 students enrolled in the Pipeline program, and several more slated to enroll this Spring.

Coined the “Role-Model” effect, when Black students have Black teachers, they have better long-term outcomes. Having just one Black teacher makes Black children 13% more likely to enroll in college. With two teachers, the likelihood of college enrollment jumps to 32%1.

“One time this student came up to me after our first class and she says, ‘You’re my first Black teacher.’ She didn’t have to say much to me. I got it from the way she looked at me,” says Professor Garner.

It’s a simple yet critical experience: if you see yourself reflected in those who have power, you realize you can do it, too.

Professor Garner has seen this happen outside the classroom, too. Her journey to become an academic has a ripple effect in her own family and community. “My oldest daughter is 33 and she’s now a professor,” she says. “There is also another lady at my church who is a principal now…she wasn’t planning a career in education but switched after I got my degree and started teaching college.”

One of the features of the Pipeline program is that Black students who are interested in running their own child care business get paired with Black professors to earn credits towards an Associate Teacher’s permit.

For students who are often raising children, working and getting a degree at the same time, having a community that has your back is important. 

“Many of our students are in survival mode,” says Professor Garner. “They often think they have to be an island. But I want them to know that I don’t want them to fail. When they are struggling, I want them to speak up. We all have moments of ‘I can’t do this’. Sometimes they just need someone to vent to…other times they need help with time management. I want them to know they can lean on us so that they can get themselves together and move forward,” she says.

Encouragement from someone you trust—especially from someone with common life experiences— goes a long way. In college, Garner’s husband left the marriage and she found herself as a single mom with a three year old. She would nanny in the morning at night, work at a child care center and also go to school during the day. She was struggling to juggle it all.

Professor Garner grew up with a “tough love” mother from California. When she was writing her thesis, her mother showed her support by not calling her so that she wouldn’t distract her. “She believed you should stand on your own two feet,” she says. “When my husband left, I didn’t move in with my parents. I went on welfare. They loved me and my daughter, of course. They knew I’d be okay. I appreciate that now.”

She recalls sharing difficulties writing her thesis with one of her professors. Funny enough, it was his “tough love” response — one that reminded her of her own mother — that helped motivate her to keep going. With an email that simply said “Get it done,” she was back on track and ultimately completed her BA and Master’s degrees in Education.

In addition to encouragement (and sometimes tough love), Professor Garner is in this field because she has a passion for babies and children. “I was always drawn to the itty bitties,” she says. “I was the teenager at church who was so excited to keep your baby through the service. I love to see babies and toddlers grow. It’s just fascinating how they develop at that stage.”

When Professor Garner reflects on the partnership with Children’s Council and the Pipeline program, she says:

“We all want to help the students complete. Students have relationships with Children’s Council staff who can help them navigate barriers. They have relationships with professors who can provide guidance. And they also have peer-to-peer relationships which seem very important, too.”

1 https://whyy.org/segments/they-see-me-as-a-role-model-black-teachers-improve-education-outcomes-for-black-students/#:~:text=The%20role%2Dmodel%20effect,-Hart%20and%20her&text=Black%20students%20who%20were%20exposed,this%20the%20role%2Dmodel%20effect.