MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It is Teacher Appreciation Week, celebrating those who help educate our future.
In doing so, we are also reminded of those who are fighting to bring diversity in the classroom.
A Memphis organization is working to attract more men of color to the field of education.
In the United States, men of color make up 2% of teachers.
“I can be part of that 2% make change,” said Gregory Stewart, Man Up Teacher Fellow.
Stewart and Jamal Collier are in that number.
“We’re the few and the proud,” said Collier, a Man Up Teacher Fellow.
Both are Man Up Teacher fellows. The fellowship is a four-year program to increase the number of men of color in education.
Dr. Patrick Washington is its founder and CEO.
“We want to elevate the narrative about who great teachers are, what great teachers look like. Ultimately, the goal is to transform the world through the classroom. Education is the vaccine for every ill that we have in our country and in our world. Man Up is part of that remedy,” said Dr. Washington.
They are the remedy with a dose of dedication, passion, and mentorship.
“Man Up is a pipeline for male teachers of color to teach at pre-K through 12th grade classrooms,” said Dr. Washington.
Collier and Stewart are both in their first year of Man Up teaching at Promise Academy. Through the program, they’ve gained mentors and opportunities to grow in education.
“Being able to share conversations with other young men and older guys that I consider my mentors. For them to be able to relate to me, that means everything,” said Stewart.
“We support them through that journey of acquiring a degree and certification,” said Dr. Washington.
Man Up started in 2018 with just 10 fellows. Now, they have more than 80 in Memphis schools and are expanding to middle Tennessee and Nashville.
“It is a movement to, one, increase representation, but also we’re changing the narrative about Black and brown men in society as a whole,” said Dr. Washington. “We’re basically supporting them from being a student to being a leader of students in their own classroom.”
It is a position the men are happy to man up and take on.
“I actually always had a passion and love for teaching. Being a youth minister at my church, I always had a love for kids and just being a mentor and being a change in their life,” said Collier.
“The ability to just pour into these kids. The more you pour into them, the more you see out of them. They get to blossom. They flourish,” said Stewart.