Research has shown that lack of teacher diversity is often a factor in gaps in academic completion and achievement among minority students.
The University of Houston-Downtown’s Department of Urban Education (based within the College of Public Service) works to close those gaps by effectively preparing teachers to support at-risk and underserved student populations. Now, a new initiative will further support the University’s efforts to prepare a more diverse teaching force that is ready to serve school districts within the region.
Starting this fall, UHD became the first university in the state to participate in the national Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program. The program—a collaboration between UHD, Clemson University and Houston Independent School District—is aimed at recruiting male high school students of color into the teaching field.
Call me MISTER at UHD will be included in the Men of Color Student Success Programs, which also includes Men of L.E.G.A.C.I. (Leadership. Excellence. Grades. Access. Collaboration. Identity).
“I am thrilled about starting the Call me MISTER program in the College of Public Service at the University of Houston Downtown,” said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Dean of the College of Public Service. “This program was built on our strong collaborative relationship with Houston Independent School District and a joint desire to recruit, mentor, train and employ more men of color in our public school system.”
Through UHD’s affiliation with Call Me MISTER, area high school students will receive mentoring and advising support from UHD faculty to ensure they meet University and College of Public Service admissions requirements. As a Call Me MISTER institution, UHD also will work hand in hand with HISD to identify and recruit possible candidates for the program.
“The vast majority of teachers in the United States are white women. Only 24 percent of all teachers are male and of that group. Black males make up only 10 percent.”
At UHD, the program is being facilitated by Dr. Jerry Wallace, College of Public Service Assistant Dean and Director of the College’s Advising, Recruitment and Retention; and Dr. Matthew Fugate, Assistant Chair of Urban Education and an Assistant Professor within the department.Students participating in Call Me MISTER ultimately benefit from intensive professional development training, workshops, faculty mentoring and cultural enrichment as they prepare to become certified teachers. As a part of UHD’s Men of Color Student Success Programs, these students also will have opportunities to engage in community service, peer-mentoring, enrichment activities and professional conferences.
According to Wallace, the overall goal of the program is to provide HISD with more qualified and certified male teachers of color who can mentor, teach and support students. The district, says Wallace, currently is seeking to enhance its number of male teachers of color.
“UHD sits at the heart of the city and right now, that heart needs some tender love and care,” he said. “If you presently look at the physical location of UHD, it sits just across the street from the Harris County jail. Our goal is to place more men of color in our institution rather than the one across from us. Efforts like these helps dispel the school to prison pipeline, the cradle to grave epidemic and decrease generational poverty of communities in Houston.”
Recent studies have indicated that only 10 percent of public school teachers nationwide are Black males. Experts have long asserted that students of color often benefit from seeing teachers of color in their schools. Call Me MISTER seeks to grow the number of teacher role models for these students while positioning UHD as a state leader for the recruitment and preparation of minority male teachers.
“Student demographics in public schools have changed dramatically over the past few decades, creating a diverse mosaic that reflects the population of our country,” Fugate said. “Unfortunately, those shifting demographics are not reflected in the population of educators working with these students. The vast majority of teachers in the United States are white women. Only 24 percent of all teachers are male and of that group. Black males make up only 10 percent. When you contrast these figures with the overrepresentation of Black and Latinx students who are identified for Special Education services, you see a system that is in need of reform.”
UHD joins more than 20 other partnering Call Me MISTER institutions. The program began at Clemson University in 2000 and its name is a nod to Jim Crow-era laws prohibiting Black men from being called “mister.”
The University’s status as the first Call Me MISTER institution in Texas complements other initiatives focused on bolstering teacher preparation at the Department of Urban Education. Just recently, the College of Public Service and Department of Urban Education were accepted into the University-School Partnerships for Renewed Educator Preparation coalition. Additionally, an Urban Education Advisory Board was formed in February to further support the department’s efforts in cultivating classroom-ready educators.
“The College of Public Service’s mission is focused on equity and social justice,” Schwartz said. “Call me MISTER is an ideal program to address issues of inequities and lack of representation in our schools. We believe in the importance of teachers and hope we can continue to recruit men of color who are passionate about teaching and making a difference in the lives of children in the City of Houston.”