BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota — To have a teacher who makes an indelible mark on your childhood is hard to sum up.
"I can't explain it, but the fact that my advanced placement biology teacher was a 50-year-old Black man who listened to jazz, understood where I came from, knew the neighborhood I grew up in and could easily relate to me. I think that made a ton of difference," Charmont 'Teddie' Lee said.
Lee says he grew up around BIPOC educators in Chicago. His mother was a teacher, too.
"When I moved here, and I looked into the district here, I did notice that it didn't matter what district I was in," Lee said. "Either Bloomington, St. Paul or Minneapolis, the majority of the teachers were Caucasian females. When I say majority, it's like 98.7%."
So Lee thought, he'd try changing that.
Currently, he's a Latino family liaison at a school district where he's doing a little bit of filling in as a teacher.
He's also working to be certified to be a full-time teacher through the Black Men In Teaching program at Normandale Community College run by Marvis Kilgore.
"Looking at the most recent data, approximately 1.7% of all teachers in the state of Minnesota identify as Black and male," Kilgore said. "However, looking at the student population, over 60% of the students are BIPOC."
To combat this statistic, Normandale founded this two-year program this past Fall.
"What we seek to do is to recruit and retain people who identify as male, Black, African, or African American into diverse career settings," Kilgore described.
The program is funded by grants and donations and provides full financial tuition scholarships for men who become a part of the cohort.
It's no secret that teachers have had it pretty hard during this pandemic. Along with others too, of course. However, teachers have been more than just educators. They've been mask police, vaccine police, scapegoats of school board meetings--they've been it all, with none of it in their job description.
So why become a teacher now?
"I'm part of that 0.5% right now, and if I could get, more people invested and more students invested in-- not just education but evolving in life in general," Lee said. "I'm so you can be successful, I'm not here because they pay me, because there's a check involved. I'm here because if you're successful I'm successful."
If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in signing up for the Black Men in Teaching program, you can contact Marvis Kilgore directly at email@example.com.
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