For Immediate Release: August 21, 2018
JACKSON, Miss. – LaJeremy Hughes, a 3rd grade English language arts teacher at Della Davidson Elementary in the Oxford School District, knew his career path the first day he stepped into a classroom.
“I immediately connected to school and all it could offer. Over the past four years, the reason for teaching has changed. I look at teaching now as opportunity to promote change. It’s more than just the dissemination of information, but it’s a chance to empower and ignite a fire,” he said.
Hughes is among the 6 percent of Mississippi’s teachers that are minority men, and efforts are underway to increase the number of minority men in the teaching profession at a time when Mississippi and other states across the nation grapple with a teacher shortage.
To that end, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) Office of Educator Talent Acquisition and Effectiveness, in partnership with the Mississippi Association of Educators, the Mississippi Professional Educators and Tougaloo College Division of Education, will host a one-day convening of minority male educators. The meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Aug.25, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Bennie G. Thompson Academic Center on the campus of Tougaloo College.
“I commend MDE for taking a stance and seeing the importance of having minority male educators in the classroom,” said Dr. Thea H. Williams-Black, Dean of the Division of Education, Supervision, and Instruction at Tougaloo College. “I like the fact that it was a call for educators across the state, so you’re getting perspectives from educators from various regions and that’s the real way you can see change.”
The partnership will bring together 75 minority male educators from across Mississippi to seek strategies to grow the pipeline of minority male educators, reduce the number of minority male educators exiting schools and classrooms, and strengthen educator preparation programs that prepare minority male educators. The goal is to grow the event in the future and to encourage more minority males to enter the teaching profession.
“I look forward to participating in this event. This effort is one piece of a comprehensive plan the MDE is implementing to address the teacher shortage,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Research has shown the positive influence that minority teachers have on minority students, and as the state continues to focus on improving outcomes for student groups that have been traditionally underserved, I believe that recruiting and retaining minority male teachers will be important to this work.”
MDE has set a goal of increasing the number of minority teachers to 32 percent of the workforce by 2021, up from the current 27 percent of teachers. In the 2017-18 school year, 48.5 percent of students in Mississippi’s public schools were African American and 51 percent of students were male.
“It is only fair that students see a well-balanced teaching staff, which consists of more males in the classroom and not just coaching. Recruitment and retention of male educators should be a primary focus to help with creating more diversity in our schools,” said Contrell Terrell, a special education teacher in the Hattiesburg Public School District.
A John Hopkins University study showed that low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. Also, having at least one black teacher in 3rd through 5th grades reduced a black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent. For very low-income black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.
Hughes said that while the study highlights one part of the minority population, it shows the impact of minority teachers on minority students.
“I also feel that minority teachers bring a unique set of values and experiences to the classroom. It allows them to understand the daily experiences of their minority students and offers an opportunity to empower them to be more than what their current situation is offering to them. I think those values and experiences coupled with their educational expertise will reap huge benefits for students in high-minority, high-poverty districts,” he said.
Terrell said he became a teacher because he wanted a first-hand opportunity to shape the learning and growth for students, especially those with mild to moderate disabilities
“Teaching has always been a passion in my life and I could not see my life any differently,” he said.
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications
Jean Cook, APR