Tigrett Middle School eighth-grader Bobby Bond credits his fifth-grade teacher as the first to encourage him as a student.He was the first black man that I’ve had for a teacher,” said Bond, 13, who is also black. “He always told me to do my best. He would sit and talk to me, and he mentored me.”
Bond said he has a positive relationship with his eighth-grade science teacher, Ray Yancy, who is also black.
“He’s a good example,” Bond said. “He’s encouraged me.”
But there aren’t many black male teachers for Bond to look up to.
Black men make up 5 percent of Jackson-Madison County Schools’ 1,140 teachers. Only four black men teach on the elementary level, while there are 36 in the high schools, according to the school system’s human resource department. Black men and women make up about 28 percent of the teachers in the system, while about 60 percent of the student population is black.
Educators say it is important for black students, particularly boys, to see positive black role models in the classroom. Black male teachers are important mentors, and in some cases father figures, to black male students. The relationships the teachers build can help curtail behavioral problems and keep students and track toward graduation and academic success, educators say.
The challenge lies in the recruitment of black men. Officials said many school systems compete for a small number of black male teachers.
And it does not help that fewer black men choose education as a career each year, officials said.
Black men make up 1 percent of the 3 million kindergarten through 12th-grade public school teachers in the United States, according to a 2008 report from the National Education Association.
Paul Thacker is the principal of West Jackson Learning Center, the system’s alternative school. About 90 percent of the students sent to West Jackson for discipline problems are young black males, he said.
The National Education Association report states the achievement of black male students begins to decline as early as the fourth grade and, by high school, they are the most likely to drop out.