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Memphis non-profit addresses lack of Black male teachers in classrooms

Man Up Teacher Fellowship provides stipends and mentorship to up and coming teachers.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — A program in Memphis is addressing the need for more Black male teachers in education and investing in the lives of students.

The founder of Man Up Teacher Fellowship says compensation and low status of the job are some factors contributing to a lack of Black men in the classrooms.

Research shows only 2% of teachers in the U.S. are men of color. Man Up Teacher Fellowship, a Memphis non-profit, is working to change inequity in public education.

“I want to change lives," said Ernest Morris III. "I want every student I come in contact with and every person I come in contact with know that where you currently are or what you’re currently experiencing doesn’t have total veto power on your life.”

Morris, who will teach seventh grade English at Hickory Ridge Middle School, is part of the latest cohort to sign with the fellowship.

He was inspired to go into teaching by the one Black male teacher he had in sixth grade.

“When you instill confidence early on into a young man and you give him the sense or energy that he can go against the norm it builds him up to make different choices in life,” said Morris.

The program offers a $5,000 stipend for up to three years, mentorship for new teachers, and an opportunity to earn a Master’s of Education at no cost.

“In every district, everywhere I’ve gone, school leaders we usually have this conversation about why aren’t there more men of color in our schools?” explained Dr. Patrick Washington, who founded Man Up.

Washington has 20 years of experience in education and is a founder at Promise Academy. The principal said he created Man Up out of a dire need for black males in the classroom.

Research shows that having a black male teacher in the classroom in third through fifth grade reduced a black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 39%.

“Having teachers who look like them because they have those visuals, then they begin to think about you know what perhaps I can be the next Dr. Washington," he said.

Dr. Washington says man up has a goal of going to two additional cities next fall.

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