NORMAL, Ala. – Leading educators say - black students perform better in school when they're taught by someone who looks like them. But in the classroom, only two percent of teachers are black men. Alabama A&M University has a program that's recruiting more blacks to lead Alabama classrooms.
2% of teachers are black men
Freddie Griffin left his engineering job four years ago to make a difference in the classroom. "That's what we got to do," he said. His presence in the classroom speaks to a larger issue American schools need right now.
Deondre Jackson was 11 years old when he had his first black male teacher in the classroom. "In elementary school, I've always had black female teachers, but I didn't know at the time that men weren't in that position," said Alabama A&M master's student Deondre. " I never really had a father in my life, but that particular male teacher - he was sort of like a mentor for me. He was my band teacher."
Alabama A&M has a new scholarship program to recruit more students like Deondre Jackson to follow in Eddie's shoes.
"By me just being in front of those young black men and them seeing someone who looks like them - you know - I can be a difference-maker," said Deondre.
Black men are needed inside America's classrooms, Alabama A&M offers a solution
Dr. Samantha Strachan is the Alabama A&M Department of Education and Leadership Interim Chairperson. "We were given funds to begin the MALE Initiative. Male - M-A-L-E - being Males for Alabama Education Initiative," said Strachan.
The program will offer minority undergrad and graduate students financial assistance, test preparation, and mentorship.
"Ever since 1619 when African slaves were bought to Jamestown, Virginia we've always been set up for failure," said Deondre. "We've been stripped of our credibility and this program is very important that it empowers young black men."
A quick look inside today's classrooms
A racial and ethnic enrollment study says minority students make up more than half of America's public school system and the department of education says K-12 teachers were less likely to be black or Hispanic.
Dr. Strachan said, "you mentioned earlier that there are only 2%."
Deondre said, "Right - and that's why this program is important."
At the end of the day, kids need to learn whether their teacher is black or white.
Students must educate for two years in the State of Alabama for every year they receive a scholarship in the MALE Initiative program. This would allow the men to impact Alabama students and showcase everything they've learned inside the classroom.