Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Every day that Joseph Harris shows up for work at the high school he attended in South Philadelphia, he addresses his past and his students’ futures.
“I see myself again in some of these students,” Harris said. Harris said, “I have had similar struggles. “I felt the same pain as these students.”
Growing up, he said, he didn’t have a Black male teacher until ninth grade. Harris was a pre-law student and is currently working towards obtaining a teacher’s certification.
One study showed just one teacher of color in third through fifth grades reduces a student of color’s chances of dropping out before graduation by up to 39%. But Black men make up just 2% of teachers in the U.S.
Sharif El-Mekki, who runs the Center for Black Educator Development, a nonprofit aimed at attracting more Black men into the teaching field, is on a mission to change that.
El-Mekki said it’s important for Black kids to have Black teachers.
“If a Black child has a Black educator, they are less likely to be expelled, suspended or even referred for disciplinary actions. He explained to CBS News that they are more likely have a greater sense of belonging in school and classroom. We believe teachers of color can also be important to White students.”
Imere Williams, a student-teacher at Charles F. Patton Middle School in suburban Philadelphia, didn’t have a Black teacher until his sixth-grade history class.
“He told me to walk in my greatness,” Williams told CBS News. Williams said that hearing those words from him was like a great liberating experience. That gave me confidence.
No one had ever said that to him before, Williams said — which is why El-Mekki wants to quadruple the number of Black male teachers over the next decade.
“It’s as simple as if you can see it, you can be it,” Williams said. You have a Black man who looks exactly like you and it gives you the belief that you can achieve it.
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