Black male educators inspire students to follow in their footsteps

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe spoke with local Black male educators hoping that they inspire others to follow their career paths.

The percentage of Black men educators has been on the decline in recent years in the U.S.

The National Teacher and Principal Survey found the number of public school teachers who were Black for the 2020-2021 school year was 1.3%, which is down from 6.5% the previous year.

That’s even though Black children accounted for 15% of public school students.

“I did not have any Black male teachers,” said Tony Jenkins, an English Language Arts teacher at Renaissance West STEAM Academy. “I had one. He was my gym teacher in the fourth grade but not core academics.”

There was little representation for young Black students.

“I did not,” said LeShawn Starling, who teaches math, science, and social studies at Hornets Nest Elementary School. “I had one teacher that made an impression on me. Ms. Cunningham.”

Starling pointed out that what a teacher looks like has no bearing on whether they can inspire young minds.

“I wanted to give back in that way to other kids that are in my position of not having a male teacher,” Starling said.

Jenkins said he has been an educator for 25 years.

“Indirectly, I’m teaching them about being responsible,” Jenkins said. “I’m teaching them about perseverance.”

Jenkins said he sets an example by dressing professionally 90% of the time.

“They get to see that you can still be cool,” he said. “Well, at least I think I’m cool. I don’t know if the kids think that, but you can still be cool, and wear a suit and have your pants up and speak in complete sentences.”

Jenkins added, “I feel like I show young boys what it’s like to be a man.”

Despite the low national percentage, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said nearly 8% of its teachers are Black men.

Starling said he hopes educators like him inspire those coming behind them to consider it as a career.

“I remember when I first started teaching, as a black male, I was the only one,” Starling said. “I think the more that students see Black males in the field, the more that they will feel like, ‘OK, it’s a gateway for me to come in.”

The White House has an initiative called Black Men Teach.

The program features teachers nationwide who have committed themselves to serving their community through teaching.

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Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.