"Black male teachers impact students by providing positive representation, understanding discipline, and successful male role models. The lack of Black male teachers is due to scarce representation, resources, and limited opportunities within the field. To increase Black representation and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, schools need more positive representation of Black males, more incentives for Black Males to teach, and more opportunities for students to learn about [the] profession.” - Ashanta Gleason
Humanities Amped senior Ashanta Gleason envisions a world in which students have access to positive Black male educator role models. To explore realizing this vision, Ashanta asked, “How can having more Black male teachers benefit schools?” and “Why is there a lack of Black male teachers?” She discovered through her research that Black male teachers provide father figures for students without and set positive examples for youth. She also learned that many Black males do not enter the teaching profession because of low teacher salaries, and that many of those who do become teachers are removed from the classroom and assigned instead as school disciplinarians. Through her data collection, she found that most of her peers have had five or fewer Black male teachers from elementary through high school, many of whom have since left the classroom. Ashanta presented these finding at the Humanities Amped “Resilient Roots” research conference.
In order to honor McKinley’s Black male teachers and to increase student, faculty, and community recognition of these educators’ invaluable contributions as models of possibility for excellence in education, Ashanta recognized the school’s Black male teachers with certificates and trophies and asked them to give advice to pre-service Black educators at her “Bringing B-B-Q to Education” (Boosting Black male Quantities) ceremony on May 7 in McKinley’s library.
Ashanta Gleason and the event's honorees
Keynote speaker and school board member Dadrius Lanus emphasized the necessity of recruiting and retaining Black males to be classroom teachers and called on audience members to take action to increase these numbers. “It is up to all of us to create leadership that represents our student population and their needs... If you don’t take responsibility, then who will?” he asked.
At the ceremony Ashanta honored, in addition to McKinley teachers and administrators, her six-year mentor and teacher Alan Sharlow. Mr. Sharlow, who left teaching because his salary could no longer support his family, shared laughter and tender moments with Ashanta and spoke about the necessity of strong, positive leadership at schools. He and several audience members concurred that leaders need to express value for Black male teachers as this respect and appreciation contribute to the long-term career commitments that are necessary to build a more diverse teaching force.
Ashanta also honored school board members Dadrius Lanus and Tramelle Howard as well as Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T), an organization dedicated to increasing diversity in teaching, particularly through Black male teachers. This year, BE2T provided four Black “Bruhs” and “Sista Bruhs” who taught and supported 10th - 12th grade Humanities Amped students in classrooms and at community events. These fellows ultimately inspired five Humanities Amped seniors to become educators, including Ashanta. Because of this success, and to support continued action for Ashanta, Humanities Amped is expanding our partnership with BE2T to create an education career preparation pathway from high school to college by transforming classroom methods, structures, and pre-service preparation while also providing classrooms with Black educator role models. Ashanta will be part of the first cohort of students transitioning from Humanities Amped to Brothers Empowered 2 Teach.
Brothers Empowered 2 Teach fellows Alana Stevenson and Justin Jackson
Humanities Amped can only achieve its mission to “transform public schools into collaborative learning spaces that generate grassroots action toward social justice while centering the agency, well-being, & democratic participation of youth” when students like Ashanta, school board members like Mr. Lanus, organizations like Brothers Empowered 2 Teach, community partners like Mr. Sharlow, and teachers like those honored at the ceremony collaborate authentically to achieve a shared goal. Through this work, transformation is truly possible; we can create the world we want to live in.
If you are feeling inspired by Ashanta’s action research and the BE2T model, visit the Brothers Empowered 2 Teach website for more information, or email Emma Gist (firstname.lastname@example.org) to become a mentor in the Humanities Amped program. You don’t have to be a professional educator to inspire our young scholar-innovators! If you are willing to dedicate some time, guidance, and expertise, you too can collaborate with Ashanta, BE2T, Mr. Lanus, Mr. Sharlow, and Humanities Amped to transform education!