Growing up as a young Black boy I was lucky to see myself represented in my teachers from a very young age. Attending school in the late 90’s in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, I grew up in a community that was almost 100% African-American. My first educators were all African-American and they were my first role models - especially my male educators because they represented what I could seek to become.
Two of my most influential teachers were Black men: my band directors in 7th grade and through high school. Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Holland set high expectations and challenged me and my peers inside and outside our classroom. I credit them both for inspiring me to become a music teacher myself. Their leadership and daily participation in our lives mattered to my peers and me because they continuously demonstrated that they cared about us as students and as young adults.
Today, as an educator myself, I’d like to think that I can have a meaningful impact in the lives of my students -- especially those who look like me and those for whom I am their only dependable source of guidance, support, and care. Being a good example for them is part of my life’s work and by teaching the spectrum of grades K-12, I can help to influence a wide range of students at my school.
I want students in every school of our state to have the same access to strong and positive Black male role models who can offer the leadership and direction students might lack in other areas of their lives. I want students to know they can one day make a meaningful impact in the lives of others as an educator.
For this to be possible we need our state education leaders to prioritize diversifying our classrooms. We can make it happen by partnering with universities to prepare more Black men for our careers in teaching, breaking down structural and cultural barriers to a teaching career, and the development of programs to draw more Black male teachers to Louisiana classrooms.
Every student deserves to see themselves represented in their classroom by a role model they can trust, and we must continue to fight to make this a reality for all our students.