by Reginald T. Dogan -

Visit any public school in the United States, and one thing you would be hard-pressed to find is black male teachers.

They are about as rare as students without cell phones.

It’s troubling that school districts nationwide still face an acute shortage of black male teachers, and Escambia County is no exception.

The lack of black male teachers is due to a number of factors, not excluding low pay, the notion that teaching has become a female-dominated profession and the fact that black men are choosing other career options.

But there is a glimmer of hope and help on the horizon.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plans to visit several historically black colleges and universities and speak directly with black male students about teaching in the nation’s public schools.

Providing positive images

His mission is as critical as it is challenging.

Today, only 1.7 percent of the nation’s 4.8 million public school teachers are black men. Most black boys never have the chance to be taught by someone who looks like them or to experience a black male role model in their public school classrooms.

The numbers aren’t much better in Escambia County.

Only 53, or about 2.4 percent of the district’s 2,200 teachers, are black males.

There are some who argue that it doesn’t matter if a teacher is black or white, male or female, as long as he or she can effectively educate children.

While that belief has a kernel of truth, we are at a time when this nation is becoming more diverse, and our teaching force should reflect it.

It’s not just about numbers, but also what black male teachers can offer: positive images for black boys.

Studies have shown that students of color often perform better with teachers of the same race because teachers and students may have similar experiences and backgrounds.

What it boils down to is that all students need teachers of color to serve as role models. Teachers bring their experiences and backgrounds to the classroom and help prepare children to live in a multicultural society.

Classroom diversity

Escambia County schools aren’t alone in their desire to find and hire more black male teachers. But the School District can’t do it alone. It means that the students must prepare themselves and be ready and available to fill the positions in schools and to fulfill their mission in their communities as the opportunity arises.

Recruiting and hiring qualified black male teachers can only make Escambia County schools and the community better.

Finding them is the difficult dilemma that the School District must keep attempting to solve to bring diversity to the classroom and enhance the learning experience.