A Johns Hopkins University study found Black and brown children in elementary school that have at least one teacher that shares their racial identity significantly increases their chances at success in education. That’s why a program called Call Me MISTER is working to increase the number of Black teachers in schools, particularly male.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black men make up only 2 percent of teachers in the U.S. The same goes for Latino male teachers all while public school enrollment is becoming more and more diverse.
"It's not only important that the teacher looks like and reflects the demographic of the student they're teaching,” says Roy Jones, a professor at Clemson University’s College of Education and founder of the program. “It's because of the experience and background. Their ability to relate and identify with the child is critical."
To address the need for more Black male teachers, Call Me MISTER, which stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models, is a college program offered through 24 South Carolina universities and recruits minority men to major in education.
Currently, it provides scholarships, extensive academic counseling and summer teaching internships, according to CNN.
Call Me MISTER was founded in 2000, but since then, it has expanded to colleges in 10 more states. "Our 'Misters' come from the same environment, the same places and spaces that the children come from. That's why they relate so well and can bring them along," Jones says.
Over the past 19 years, 275 men have graduated from the program and received job offers. Jones says 95 percent of graduates are still working in the classroom as teachers while the other 5 percent are principals or working in education leadership roles in South Carolina.
Along with enrolling new teachers, Call Me MISTER also aims to change the perception of becoming a teacher. Kyle Fersner, a current freshman who joined the program at the College of Charleston, admitted that he initially didn’t want to teach because of the average income teachers make.
"But there came a point -- you can sit back and let issues go on or you can be part of the solution. I can be part of the reform that brings higher wages to teachers," he said. "Once I realized, that's when I shifted."
For more information about Call Me Mister, click here.
Photo: Will & Deni McIntyre