These Guys Aren't Just Talking About It, They're Recruiting and Keeping Male Educators of Color in the Classroom

Aug 10, 2017 12:00:00 AM


Quick: Name all of the male educators of color you had growing up. Having trouble coming up with any? You’re not alone. Only 2 percent of teachers in the United States are Black men. Hispanic men make up the same percentage of the teaching force. This lack of diversity is a big problem. When kids have role models who remind them of themselves, research shows that they succeed at a greater rate. Black male students with same-race teachers between third and fifth grade are 39 percent less likely to drop out of high school. Fortunately, some educators are working to recruit and retain men of color in the profession.

Black Male Educators

Take Philadelphia’s Sharif El-Mekki, a principal whose inspiring leadership earned him a fellowship in President Obama’s Department of Education. El-Mekki has ambitious goals to increase the number of Black male educators in the next decade through a fellowship he co-founded, Black Male Educators Convening (BMEC). As he told The Philadelphia Inquirer, BMEC seeks to double the number of Black male teachers in his hometown by the year 2025.
Our black boys aren't being told, "You're a great leader, why don't you lead in a classroom?" El-Mekki said. He vowed to change that classroom dynamic so that these boys feel empowered to teach the generations that follow them.
Other educators of color have followed El-Mekki’s example, starting outreach programs, blogs and support groups for teachers of color. Shamar Knight-Justice, an assistant principal in Atlanta, is a member of Profound Gentlemen, a growing national network that seeks to build relationships among male educators of color. Networks like this provide crucial resources to men of color who feel isolated in their schools. On a post on his blog, EdLANTA, Knight-Justice writes:
Literally millions of Americans have never had a Black male educator. People hear this figure and think “Damn, that’s not good” but often miss the story of isolation associated with it. They don’t think about the eight to 12 hours per day a Black male educator spends at work not interacting with someone of the same affinity or the increased probability of him getting smacked in the forehead by a microaggression from a colleague or the soul-sucking disappointment felt when he realizes the non-existence of any mirrors or role models for the young Black boys in his school building.
In groups like Profound Gentlemen, teachers trade notes on how to build character development plans for their students. They also support each other so that they remain in the profession. In the case of Profound Gentlemen, 95 percent of their members continued teaching in 2016. Schools in the District of Columbia have started what they call the “Leading Men Fellowship.” It’s a push to bring male teachers of color to early education classrooms. Besides increasing diversity, it has had an impact on students’ learning. It “tackled the literacy gap among low-income students.”

Latino Male Educators

There’s also a push to increase the number of Latino men in classrooms. Students like Brayan Reyes at San Diego’s San Marcos High School have entered a program called Encuentros Teacher Academy at Cal State San Marcos. The program introduces teens like the 16-year-old Reyes to Hispanic education leaders to inspire the kids to become teachers themselves. “Going into the Teacher Academy, it opened my eyes to see there’s a lot of Latino students who need help and who don’t have a role model to look up to,” Brayan said. “They don’t see a connection with a teacher because they don’t look the same and they don’t feel as accepted because of their race.” Sadly, Reyes’ interest in teaching is not the norm. Alma Renteria, an educator and school board member in Southern California, says young men in classrooms typically see teaching as either unattainable or unattractive as a career option. And it seems a lot of this boils down to representation. With future teachers like Reyes, other young boys of color may be inspired to follow him into the teaching workforce.

Who’s Doing This Work

Here is a list of organizations and initiatives expanding diversity in the male teaching force.
  • The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education runs a program called Teach-Inspire-Educate to pair Black and Brown potential teachers with Black and Brown working teachers to show them the ropes.
  • The Black Teacher Collaborative aims to provide students of color with educators who “maximize shared racial identity learning experiences” throughout students’ academic careers.
  • Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T), a Louisiana-based recruitment and empowerment program for men of color, prepares, particularly Black men, to enter the teaching profession.
  • The Campaign for Black Male Achievement has directed some of its work towards recruiting and highlighting Black male educators, including a webinar on Increasing the Presence of Black Male Educators.
  • Educate ME, run by Indianapolis-based teacher David McGuire, aims to show young Black boys “reflections” of themselves when they enter the classroom.
  • The Education Writers Association held a conference in July 2017 to discuss solutions for teachers of color leaving the profession.
  • Educators Rising starts early working with high school students to develop their interest and skills in teaching. They have a particular focus in cultivating “homegrown” teachers who can work in the communities where they were raised, especially in communities of color.
  • Encuentros Teacher Academy, based at Cal State San Marcos, encourages Brown boys to succeed in education and move into the teaching profession.
  • The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, the group co-founded by El-Mekki, works with nearly 700 Black male educators to grow and retain Black teachers.
  • The Leading Men Fellowship in the District of Columbia brings Black and Brown men into early education.
  • NNSTOY is the national association for current and former State Teachers of the Year, and in 2016 launched a fellowship for Black male educators.
  • NYC Men Teach aims to recruit 1,000 men of color to New York’s school system by 2018.
  • Profound Gentlemen, the group Knight-Justice works with, connects Black teachers to each other.
Did we miss any? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.
This post was originally published on July 28, 2017, and was updated on Aug. 10, 2017.

Rob Samuelson

Rob Samuelson is a Staff Writer at Education Post and Digital Media Manager for the brightbeam network.

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