As the number of students of color has steadily increased in the U.S., the number of teachers of color, particularly male teachers of color, falls dismally short of reflecting the actual growing diversity of the student population in the classroom. Many men of color have decided against pursuing a career in education because of its low pay, being assigned to hard-to-staff schools in high-poverty communities, and serving mainly as disciplinarians rather than content teachers. In fact, male teachers of color make up only 2% of the teaching profession compared to the 7% of female teachers of color, the U.S. Department of Education reveals. These stark statistics come at a time when students of color are 1 out of every 2 students in public schools, no longer the 4 out of 10 students of 25 years ago, according to the National Education Association.
As such, recruiting men of color to be educators in K–12 school systems was the mission of Richard H. Warren Jr., Ed.D., when he joined the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in Princess Anne, Maryland, as the Richard F. Hazel professor of education. Warren established the Men of Color in Education Program to support and educate men of color as they prepare to become the next generation of teachers. Studies show that having one male teacher of color decreases student dropout rates and increases the likelihood of students aspiring to postsecondary education. Research also indicates that all students benefit from having a male teacher of color. Today’s students are likely to be learning and working with diverse peers who have different cultural backgrounds and lived experiences, so being able to understand and respect different perspectives and communicate and collaborate effectively will be essential skills for the long-term success of the next generation.
Currently, the teaching profession is experiencing shortages nationwide because of rising attrition rates and retention issues, but these problems present real opportunities to diversify the field of education with dynamic teachers of color, particularly male teachers of color. Warren hopes the Men of Color in Education Program can improve the teacher pipeline for all children, so teachers reflect what they see behind the desks in their classrooms.
The Men of Color in Education Program complements the mission of UMES that serves students, the majority of whom are people of color, female, first generation, in an environment that promotes multicultural diversity, encourages academic success, and nurtures intellectual and social growth.
Warren graduated with his bachelor’s, masters’s, and doctoral degrees from UMES and was named Maryland State Teacher of the Year in 2019 while teaching science in middle school.
“The High School Teacher University has done a lot for me. It changed my perspective. I learned about the teaching, really showing how much it is needed and really showing how much a teacher’s relatability to your life and your experience can impact you and help you become a better student.”
Warren developed the three-pronged Men in Color in Education Program: the High School Teacher University, the University Cohort, and the Man the Shore Network.
- The High School Teacher University targets male students of color in high school and offers them access to early college courses in teacher preparation through an intensive, engaging five-week institute. Participating school districts agree to cover the cost of three dual-enrollment courses offered during this summer program. If the high schoolers pass these courses, they qualify for the Hazel Scholarship, an endowment that can award up to $1,500 per student, and can begin their UMES experience with nine credits. In addition to coursework, the university provides teaching experience and classroom observations, college admissions counseling and scholarship information, field trips and campus tours, mentoring with male teachers of color, and professional and leadership development workshops and events.
- The multiyear University Cohort extends academic, social, and cultural support to male students of color majoring in teacher education. Students in the cohort reside in the same residence hall and engage in education courses and events designed to foster community and deepen their understanding of what it means to be a male, a male student of color, and a male teacher of color. In addition, students receive teacher licensure support, ongoing advising, scholarship information, and job placement assistance in the teaching profession.
- The Man the Shore Network is a collective of male educators of color on Maryland’s Eastern Shore who are actually working in the teaching profession. Young and aspiring male teachers of color are paired with these seasoned individuals who can encourage them on their journey professionally and personally. The network also engages in activities focused on the recruitment, retention, and development of educators of color by offering professional learning and fellowship.
Through this intense and supportive experience, Warren hopes to encourage male high school students of color to consider a teaching career and then provide them with the mentoring they will need through their college years and as professional educators. To promote this education initiative, Warren organizes the Man The Shore Education Summit annually. The first one was held in 2020, when the program was launched. A panel of six men of color, ranging from instructors to administrators to school board members, addresses the challenges of recruiting and retaining men of color in education. The panel also speaks to the academic, social, and emotional development of young men of color in the school system. The summit brings attention to the need for educators to reflect the diversity of students in their classrooms locally, regionally, and nationally and, in turn, Warren’s Men of Color in Education Program.
“The Men of Color in Education Program gives you a new outlook on why teachers are so important and so influential, and by this program—and by you being in this program—you can find out ways of how to become better, how to do better, and how to impact your career.”
The need for diversity in the classroom resonated with the community on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. Dorchester County Public Schools (DCPS) partnered with the UMES Men of Color in Education Program to train, support, and increase the talent pool of male teachers of color. Beginning in the summer of 2021, DCPS high school male students of color participated in the High School Teacher University. The early college courses in teacher preparation offered during the five-week institute aligned with Dorchester County Technical Center’s Teacher Academy of Maryland curriculum. Worchester County Public Schools is also participating in the program, with Somerset County Public Schools expected to join as well. In addition, the Men of Color in Education Program has been hosting the Pedagogy From The 2 Percent virtual roundtable series this year. It highlights the expertise of men of color in the field of education and explores ways to better support these teachers. The series is held during the fall semester. Also, since the Man the Shore Network was established, it has grown to more than 40 men of color in the education field from the local community as well as students pursuing degrees in education. Through these and other efforts, the program helps boys and men of color see themselves as teachers for the next generation of students.
Evaluating the Men of Color in Education Program’s success is expected to occur over the next several years. One of the measures is the graduation rates of the participating students. As of 2022, 10 men of color have declared education as their major and are in the University Cohort at UMES. Since 2020, 25 students have attended the High School Teaching University. Warren also expects the boys and men of color in the program to benefit from the role models they meet and support they receive through their high school and college experiences.
The success of the Men of Color in Education Program depends upon the strengths of its partnerships. UMES mapped out this program across its academic and auxiliary service departments on campus and school districts and grassroots organizations off campus. Without upfront funding, a memorandum of understanding with local school districts was reached to ensure their payment of the summer institute—at no cost to the high school students. By doing so, the students were able to earn nine credits in education that would go toward their undergraduate studies at UMES. Collaboration among the various departments on campus provided the necessary scaffolding to build a supportive community for undergraduate men of color, some of whom are first-generation students. To reinforce the students’ commitment to the education field, a network of professionals was organized to mentor these men of color as they pursue their professional roles in education. Through these coalitions, UMES has been working to build the confidence of men of color to see themselves as educators, ushering the next generation of students to achieve and succeed.
“I want to give others the same opportunity that I didn’t have as a black male student growing up and lead them in the right direction, because guidance plays a big part throughout life. Being able to have that person there and to say, ‘I got you,’ or ‘Don’t give up,’ [that can] kind of motivate them to want to do better for themselves.”
“When you come in contact with someone who is in the 2% … you should care because we are going to retire one day. And you should want your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren to have a quality education and to interact with people of different cultures. I believe we do things in our classroom differently than our Caucasian counterparts … . We are on a completely different side of the spectrum, but we do what we have to do, and we are successful at what we have to do.”