Look a little closer and you might find Black men on the roster of teachers at a school near you.
An organization is showing the school system the benefit of students having more Black men as teachers.
The organization, Man Up Teacher Fellowship, a non-profit that launched in 2018, recently celebrated the addition of 100 plus teachers across approximately 330 schools in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, during its Signing Day Ceremony this year.
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According to the website, Man Up’s mission is “to give students in high poverty, urban and rural communities, particularly male students of color, access to high quality male teachers and advancing policies that promote equity in K-12 schools.”
With studies showing that less than 2% of teachers are “men of color,” the non-profit focuses on placing their recipients in schools to diversify the classrooms.
“We can’t underestimate and undervalue the power of a visual,” Man Up founder Dr. Patrick Washington told Fox 13 News Memphis. “If I get to see myself in another space, in another way, a professional, Black or Brown man, these boys aspire to be that.”
The fellowship program selects candidates for the program based on six elements including resilience, commitment, professional leadership, reflective practitioner, critical thinking, and personal leadership. Each fellow is offered $20,000, a mentor, and academic and career support.
“We basically support them from undergraduate to the classroom, from the classroom to the board, from the principalship to the board room,” Washington said.
“We’re still pushing and fighting for more,” he added. “We plan to do more advocacy work as we grow and evolve, but to be connected with a fraternity of brothers who feel like we can change things through the classroom is what Man Up is all about.”
Man Up Fellowship recipient Hashim Jones reflected on his experience attending a Man Up event.
“It made me, as a Black teacher, feel important.”
The nine-year veteran teacher currently employed at his alma mater, Promise Academy, shares his knowledge in the fourth-grade classroom as a science teacher.
“When I was a student, it was men that looked like me that helped shape who I am,” he said.
“So, I wanted to double down and give students the same kind of mentorship.”
Some of the future plans for the program include improving the academic achievements of male students, increasing the graduation rate and decreasing the dropout rate for men of color, and increasing the number of males of color majoring in education.
Expectations for the program’s goals are seeing the changes shift by 5% in partnering schools over the next five years.