ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County school leaders are working to bring more diversity in to the classroom.

Dozens of educators are learning a new teaching method to help reduce the achievement gap between students of different backgrounds and ethnicities.

The idea of the county's program is to use cultural awareness to cater instruction to the individual strengths and needs of each student.

“We have not done the best job that we should be doing in impacting the teaching and learning experiences for our marginalized students,” Bernard Hariston, the county’s assistant superintendent, said.

On Monday, March 11, dozens of teachers and administrators attended a monthly meeting that gave teachers a lesson on culturally responsive training.

Hairston says the program could help lower the achievement gap in county schools.

“We can show that culturally responsive teaching is aligned to closing achievement gaps,” Hairston said. “We have this certification model that we've created, not sure that there’s another one similar to this anywhere because this is homegrown."

The Diversity Resource Training Program started about three years ago, and it gives educators a chance to get certified in culturally responsive teaching while also allowing them to learn from other educators’ experiences.

“This is such a powerful and passionate group of educators who are taking really intentional steps to grow their practice and grow their relationships with students with the goal of achievement and with a better learning environment for all of our students,” Monica Laux, a teacher in the county, said.

Both Hairston and Laux say the program won't necessarily close the achievement gap over night, but it is a step in the right direction.

"We can sit around and talk about a problem for a really long time, but taking this priority of looking at culturally responsive teaching is actually getting us to the how to fix it,” Laux said.

Hairston says the program is popular among educators in the county.

“We have teachers, administrators, coaches, who are hungry - I mean they are downright hungry - for this new learning experience of, ‘how can I connect with myself to do a better job of connecting with students,’” Hairston said.

The county expects the number of educators who will earn their culturally responsive teacher certification to be greater this year than in the last three years combined.