Representation matters. It’s a phrase most of us are familiar with, but what does it look like in education?
Caresal Bolds, San Jacinto College child development program director, hopes to encourage more men, especially minorities to enter the profession.
“Diversifying the educator workforce represents a key step toward promoting greater equity in schools,” said Bolds.
Black men represent less than 2% of the entire teacher workforce, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but their presence in the classroom improves outcomes for students.
Why does representation matter?
A 2017 study by the Institute of Labor Economics found that low-income Black students who have a Black teacher, regardless of gender, for at least one year in elementary school are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to consider college. Still, only 7% of teachers nationwide are Black.
Local educators, Kenneth Bryant, Jr., and Anthony Felder, know this struggle from experience.
“When students are in the company of educators who look like them and who understand their needs, we can have greater impact,” said Bryant, North Shore Tenth Grade Center principal. “We can plant a seed to help them change their generational direction when it comes to their education. They use us as a reference for an educator who was active in their life as a positive male role model.”
Bryant began his career as a substitute teacher in Fort Bend ISD to earn extra income while completing his undergraduate education at Texas Southern University.
“I quickly realized the need for strong male African American leadership in the educational system,” Bryant said.
Felder, lead teacher at Galena Park ISD, became an educator to fulfill a dream of inspiring the future.
“One of my first teaching jobs was as an in-school suspension teacher at an alternative school, and I loved that job,” Felder said. “It was an entire school dedicated to second chances. It was important for me to encourage the kids that even though they have made mistakes their future is bright.”
A new national study published in the peer-reviewed journal Early Education and Development found that children taught by teachers of the same race develop better learning and problem-solving skills by the time they turn 7 years old. The impact was felt most in Black and Latino children.
One San Jac student who understands the impact he will have later in his career is Montè Bell.
“I chose a career in teaching because a lot of my family members are in education,” Bell said. “I saw how they give back to their community, and I wanted to do that as well. It was instilled in me at a young age that education is important, and I internalized that. I want to impact the future generation of leaders, just as they did with me.”
San Jacinto College offers associate degrees in teaching for early childhood through sixth grade and for grades seven through twelve, each a total of 60 credit hours. These courses are available online and at the Generation Park, Central, North, and South Campuses.
“We need educators who reflect our community to mentor our students – to guide them in the right direction,” said Jorge Embil, San Jac education professor. “The way you change lives with a degree in education brings immeasurable reward.”