Texas A&M's First African-American Female To Complete Entire Tenure Process Retires


Written by: Ashley Green (cehdcomm@tamu.edu)
Post date: May 24, 2017

She was the first African-American female to complete the entire tenure process - from the rank of lecturer all the way to full professor – at Texas A&M University and the College of Education and Human Development. Now, after 32 years with the college, Dr. Patricia Larke is taking time for herself and retiring.

Dr. Larke’s major impact on the college came shortly after she joined the faculty in 1984. When the state began to require all teacher education majors to have some kind of multicultural education, Dr. Larke was asked to develop a class to meet that mandate. The class, INST 322, Foundations of Education in a Multicultural Society, became a required course for all elementary education students.

While teaching the course for many years, Dr. Larke developed an interest in research on how to make classrooms more effective for diverse students. Her findings led her to change the course slightly to focus on helping pre-service teachers understand the state’s growing diversity needs.

“My goal was to impact teachers. I have pre-service teachers who are at an impressionable age and using multicultural education is a way in which they can hear about equity issues and also become champions for students who are underserved.”

She also found a need for a doctoral emphasis in multicultural education. She created a doctoral-level course to both help students and increase research in the area. That emphasis embodied cohorts of doctoral students who wanted to pursue multicultural education as their research interest.

Since then, Dr. Larke has had many lines of research looking at effective multicultural teaching. She coined the term “effective multicultural teacher” and the term of “instructional racism.”

“I worked with school districts and other higher education institutions. I came in as a consultant looking at how to get faculty to change their paradigm of looking at diversity, not as an add-on but as an integrated approach.”

Dr. Larke’s research focus changed slightly five years ago. She has six granddaughters and heard their stories about what was happening in their schools. Those stories prompted her to begin working with a doctoral student to determine what research was being done on the education of African American girls. A quick Google search made all the difference.

“We got this response back from Google asking if we meant African American boys. That was a pivotal point because it led me to look at education whereas most research on African-American girls was on social-emotional topics in the deficit paradigm. There wasn’t a lot of research on academics.”

That research also led to Dr. Larke’s latest book, which she co-authored with Dr. Gwendolyn Webb-Hasan, professor of K-12 administration in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development and her former graduate student, Dr. Jemimah Young, assistant professor at the University of north Texas. Their book, titled Cultivating Achievement, Respect and Empowerment (CARE) for African American Girls in Pre-K-12 Settings, helps to reinforce the sense of integrity of young African American girls as learners and focuses on an unbalanced educational focus on African American males.

Developing a Passion

Dr. Larke admits she has always wanted to be a teacher. She got her first chance as a peer tutor in her first-grade classroom.

“I didn’t go to kindergarten because we didn’t have public kindergarten at the time. Because my mother taught me to read, my first-grade teacher, Ms. Hill, gave me my own reading group. I taught six other children to read. That’s when I first knew about my passion.”

Dr. Larke is proud that passion brought her to Texas A&M and through her many years of research on multicultural education. She hopes her research continues to have an impact on the lives of teachers across the country.

“Even though the field itself has been challenged with a lot of bureaucracy, one of the greatest professions you can have is to be a teacher. You have power. You decide to make a child’s life miserable or enjoyable,” said Dr. Larke. “Don’t let anyone discourage you. Figure out a way you can make the system work for you. It doesn’t always have to be oppressive. You can change it, you just have to have the strength, encouragement and prayers to do that.”

In fact, Dr. Larke’s latest statement is #dothework.