by Katiera Winfrey - WISHTV

To combat that, two local nonprofits — Early Learning Indiana and the Educate Me foundation — are partnering to get more minority men in classrooms in Indianapolis. The organizations are offering fellowships to make it happen. Application are being accepted. It’s a pilot program but the minority men selected will be put through training before shadowing in the classroom.

Zacharay Ferguson is a giant next to his preschool students, but somehow he can come down to their size. They call him Mr. Zack.

“Being able to do that is a joy and hopefully they can just take what they soak in and keep moving forward,” said Ferguson, an early education teacher at the Day Early Learning Center. “I like working with these kids because they are still a sponge. And I just want to encourage some good habits respectful habits,”

Nonprofits Early Learning Indiana and Educate Me are partnering to get more minority men like Ferguson into early education classrooms.

There is a significant shortage of male teachers, particularly those who are black or Latino. Educate Me has had success with K-12 and the plan is to now focus on early education.

“It’s absolutely essential that we take advantage of this time of the rapid development. That’s when children are having the most positive interactions that they can’t have,” said Maureen Weber, chief executive officer of Early Education Indiana.

Educate Me founder Blake Nathan said, “Understand that you are planting the seed for the next future leaders, future entrepreneurs, future president of the United States, whatever the case may be. You have the opportunity to really mold and shape and develop those young minds.”

In the next few years, experts predict there will be an shortage of about 9,000 early education educators.