It’s a nationwide problem, the shortage of black male teachers. Only two-percent of the nation’s nearly five million teachers are African American.
Twenty-eight-year-old Craig King has taught third grade at Whittaker Elementary School for six years. His students say there’s never a dull moment in Mr. King’s class, also known as “The Kingdom.” For him, the decision to go into education came easy. King says, “I come from a family filled with teachers, so educating is in my blood.”
Teachers like Mr. King are rare. In South Carolina, there are more than 49-thousand teachers, more than 8-thousand of them are men, and of that number just over a thousand are black men. King calls it a national epidemic. He says some young men think about salary first when it comes to teaching, but says the rewards are priceless. Craig King says, “It’s one of the best feelings in the world to educate. The rewards are far greater than anything monetary. The rewards I get everyday looking in my student’s faces and teaching them. Teaching has gotten this stigma of not being a masculine profession. I think it’s the most masculine professions out. Because you’re serving as a father figure in many instances. You have the uncanning ability to affect so many children who don’t have a male role model at home or in their community. I look at it as a right and a must to have male teachers in education.” King says he’s concerned about the shortage of black male teachers. “It concerns me a lot. Education is the catalyst to change the world. Education is what we need, and we need more African American males.”
There are programs, like “Call Me Mister,” that are hoping to bring changes to classrooms. The program started ten years ago at Clemson University to address the shortage of black male teachers in classrooms, and is now at 14 colleges and universities throughout the state. Dr. Roy Jones is executive director of the Call Me mister Program at Clemson University. He says, “We don’t stand alone in this crisis, this challenge, there are coast to coast, states, colleges, universities, school districts faced with the same challenges. We think that by placing African American men in the classroom is extremely critical because we’re losing so many black males in the school district in school system. In fact, more than half of our children don’t make it through high school. That’s an alarming statistic.”
Call Me Mister offers 8-thousand-dollars in tuition assistance and other support services per “Mister” per year. In exchange, the student must agree to teach a year for every year they received support. Dr. Jones says, “We started out recruiting, developing, training if you will, and certifying and placing African American men into teaching positions throughout the state of South Carolina public schools. We’ve graduated more than 60 to date that are currently teaching in elementary public schools in South Carolina. We have about 150 enrolled among our partner colleges throughout the state.”
19-year-old Codarrio Butler, a freshman at South Carolina State University is one of those young men. He says, “I believe that I can be a positive mentor and positive role model.” Codarrio is in the Call Me Mister program at South Carolina State University. Codarrio says he always wanted to be a teacher, to make a difference. He says, “In middle school, I only had one male teacher, high school, one male teacher. I decided I wanted to be a male teacher. I wanted to be someone that males can look up to and they can see doing positive things.”
Craig King says, “Whenever I have a chance to talk to any African American male or male in general about coming into the fold of education, I take that and jump on it. I explain the rewards I receive daily, and when I say daily, I mean daily of inspiring the youth of tomorrow. It’s just a great feeling. I can’t see myself doing anything else, anything else at all.” Dr. Jones says, “What we’re trying to do is be that call, be that rallying call that says, we need master teachers, more than master line backers and point guards, not that we criticize that at all. We want success and excellence at every level, but until we make becoming a master teacher something that is a priority in the community and among our profession, we’re going to have a tough time attracting these young guys to go in to the profession.”
The Call Me Mister program is now licensed in six other states. There will be a state-wide Call Me Mister Summit in Charleston at the College of Charleston, April 10th at 10am. For more information on the Call Me Mister program, click here: http://www.clemson.edu/hehd/departments/education/research-service/callmemister/
Here’s a look at the numbers of black male teachers in local school districts:
- Berkeley County – 31
- Charleston County – 82
- Dorchester District 2 – 25
- Dorchester District 4 – 13
- Colleton County – 10
- Georgetown County – 28
- Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5- 70
- Williamsburg County – 25
Local school districts say they are working to recruit diverse staff.
Charleston County School District, the second largest district in the state says they have a partnership with the College of Charleston and other collaborators to address this issue and diversify as a priority.
Here is a look at their initiatives:
Winter of 2009: district launched its diversity initiative, with training beginning with the district’s leadership. Phase 1 of the training has been completed, and Phase 2 of the training is being implemented with all CCSD principals.
June 2009: district established the diversity council. Council has representation from all departments within the district. Some of the work of the council has included addressing hiring practices and procedures that promote diversity, identification of potential barriers to increasing diversity within the organization, and identifying strategies that can result in increased diversity within the organization.
Summer 2009: launched the literacy internship initiative in collaboration with the College of Charleston. The target population for the program is African American Males or other males of color with an interest in the teaching profession. The project provides substantial funding for tuition and fees for candidates that are enrolled in the College of Charleston’s masters of arts in early childhood program.