North Carolina Central University launched the Marathon Teaching Institute, with the mission of recruiting, retaining and mentoring African American males to become K-12 teachers and educators.
Currently, Black male teachers comprise less than two percent of public K-12 teachers nationally, according to a U.S. Department of Education. The new MTI program aims to increase this number.
Quintin Murphy, the program coordinator of MTI, said the organization aims to provide Black male students with the tools they need to succeed as educators.
“We aim to be the number one African American teaching program that prepares African American students across all HBCUs," Murphy said. "It is the only independently run program on an HBCU campus that better prepares African American students to go to the next level."
Murphy said that N.C. Central is currently known for its excellent law and nursing programs, but he is hopeful that the MTI will shine a light on the school's education program.
“In the early 1960s and 1970s, Central was looked at as one of the best teaching colleges in the state," Murphy said. "We want to refocus and re-highlight that Central is a great institution to obtain your licensure degree and that it’s a great institution where we wanted to do more for African American male education majors."
Brian Wasson, an English teacher at Chapel Hill High School, graduated from N.C. Central in 2012. Wasson said historical and institutional factors have contributed to the number of Black male teachers.
“Black kids coming up haven't seen their intelligence as valued in school settings or their self-worth and self-efficacy affirmed all that much in school settings,” Wasson said. “Now this is improving, but historically, the educational system hasn't always been a source of safety and comfort for Black people in general, and particularly Black men.”
Wasson said he has seen the impact that Black male teachers can have on graduation and retention rates for Black students, which he attributes to their efforts to affirm their students' self-worth.
“Not having Black males there also says something that is very unspoken, but very well heard among Black students going through a school setting," Wasson said. "It shows them that maybe this is not the place for them, and that is reflected in their performance.”
Sarajaneé Davis, professor of public policy at UNC, said she would love to see the University support the MTI initiative and find other opportunities to collaborate with N.C. Central in support of Black men leading K-12 classrooms.
“Above all else, I think UNC needs to substantively prioritize this matter and listen to what teachers, teacher candidates and undergraduate students of color say they want and need to pursue careers in education,” Davis said.
She added that there are a number of steps UNC could take to increase the number of students of color studying education, including financial support, mentorship and evaluating its own teaching environment.
“By determining what is limiting racial diversity in its own teaching ranks and remedying those problems, UNC might be better equipped to recruit and retain future teachers of color,” Davis said.
Wasson and Murphy said they are hopeful that more Black male teachers can have a greater positive impact on minority students.
“They need support,” Wasson said. “They need familiar faces in positions of authority, so they can kind of feel like their value is edified. They can be active and beneficial contributors to their school setting and, in the future, their society.”
MTI will review applications each spring to select a cohort that will begin the next fall. Minority male students majoring in education or counseling with a cumulative 2.7 GPA are eligible to apply for the program.
Students who are interested in the program can find more information on MTI's webpage.
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