MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s a new effort to get more Black men in the classroom.
Only 2% of teachers in America are Black men, but research shows having more of them could significantly increase Black students’ chances of high school graduation and going to college.
“When students of color especially see a man they are kind of like, ‘whoa, who is this,‘” said Promise Academy teacher Hashin Jones.
A large number of K-12 students in this country will never have a Black male teacher.
“My teacher that had the greatest impact on my life was my sixth grade teacher, so to be able to go back and teach sixth grade has just been phenomenal to me,” said Kingsbury Middle School teacher Stephen Payne.
A program founded by Dr. Patrick Washington, a 20-year educator and founding principal at Promise Academy Spring Hill, was troubled by the low number of Black male teachers.
In 2018 he created the Man Up Teacher Fellowship. It’s a program to encourage and support Black men in education.
“Going into next year over 50 guys will have joined Man Up and they are in schools throughout this city and around this county,” said Washington.
According to a 2017 Institute of Labor Economics study, low-income Black students who have a Black teacher third through fifth grade are 39% less likely to drop out of high school.
"We know there is a great movement happening in this country right now. This work is a great social justice movement. There's an attempt to close an equity gap," said Washington.
The Man Up Teacher Fellowship provides mentorship to up and coming teachers, a $5,000 stipend for up to three years and an opportunity to earn a Master’s of Education at no cost.
Tuesday, the third class of Black male teachers entering the fellowship will be announced.
Fourth grade teacher CJ Harris was one of the first participants in the program. He will serve as a mentor.
"Just a collection of like-minded men moving in the same direction and all of us with the same goal to be the most effective possible," said Harris.
Dr. Washington says he carries a picture of his great-great-great grandfather with him at all times.
He was told that he was a former slave that taught other black people to read.
"Something exudes from that photo that says there is a responsibility to our community and there's no greater avenue to transform communities than through education," said Washington.
For more information about the Man Up Teacher Fellowship or to apply for the next cohort, click here.