A Black fifth-grade teacher at Monroe Elementary School in Minneapolis was applauded by his students and peers while receiving a $50,000 check to help pay off his student loans.
Markus Flynn, executive director of the nonprofit Black Men Teach, personally handed Thetis White the large sweepstakes-sized check to help the educator pay off his loans and take off some of his financial burdens, EdSurge reported.
“It’s a great thing that they did. I know that he deserves it very much,” one of Thetis’ students said. The teacher was overcome with emotion and broke out in tears while accepting the reward, as noted by Blavity.
Flynn prides himself on the nonprofit’s work while also working as a part-time teacher in Minnesota himself. The state is regarded for having good schools but a poor track record for serving Black students.
“When I started looking into education studies I saw some of the most compelling statistics I’ve ever seen—in any field,” Flynn said on the EdSurge Podcast.
He already understood the importance of Black students having Black teachers but seeing statistics opened his eyes even more. He cited studies that said if a Black student has at least one Black teacher by the time they reach third grade, they are 13% more likely to enroll in college. Black students are 32% more likely to go to college if they have two Black teachers simultaneously.
He noted the harsher treatment Black male students are often subjected to when compared to their white counterparts.
“They represent 10 percent of the student population but 42 percent of the discipline incidents,” he said.
Despite the education disparities people of color face, Flynn was motivated to teach in Minnesota because of all the change he knows the state can bring about.
“A place like Minnesota is actually a place that should be the first place looking to change because the outcomes are so disparate, and it’s so obvious,” Flynn said. “And in Minnesota right now, it’s the hub when it comes to like this focus on equity and justice, given the murder of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. And so this is a place where the work really needs to be done.”