Recruiting high-achieving men of color to produce effective teachers in the classroom.
In the United States, the majority of public school children are students of color. However, only 20% of public school teachers are racial and ethnic minorities. Call Me MISTER, an emerging program at Kansas State University, is working to diversify the teaching profession by preparing young men of color to teach in Kansas, providing students with teachers who look like them and can relate to their experiences.
Pioneered at Clemson University nearly 20 years ago, Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) is a nationally recognized initiative raising the pool of male teachers from diverse backgrounds to serve under-performing schools. K-State’s Call Me MISTER program launched in 2015 as part of a decades-long commitment by the College of Education to enrich schools by encouraging students from traditionally underrepresented communities to make teaching their career of choice.
“We recruit high-achieving men of color and work with them to produce effective teachers in the classroom and build good citizenship in these young men,” said Dr. David Griffin, recently retired assistant dean and director of the Center for Student Success and Professional Services in the College of Education. “Through rigorous academic programming, mentoring and leadership development, the end product of Call Me MISTER is to prepare graduates to be involved in the communities where they sign a contract to teach.”
Currently, K-State’s MISTER participants represent African American, Latino, Native American and Chinese communities. MISTERS are from both rural and urban areas of Kansas and some are pursuing teaching as a second career.
MISTERs receive modest tuition assistance, systematic academic support, social and cultural support, networking preparation and opportunities, and assistance with job placement. In this way, Call Me MISTER depends upon investments of time, partnerships and private philanthropy to continue. In line with the program’s strong emphasis on leadership and service, MISTERS have volunteered in local and regional elementary schools, including stepping in for parents/guardians unable to attend the Donuts with Dad and Mornings with Mom activities.
“They learn as teachers that not every parent/guardian can come to every event,” said Jamie Griffin, program coordinator for Call Me MISTER. “These young men are already serving schools and helping students envision themselves in education before they graduate.”
Griffin, in reflecting on the goal Call Me MISTER has for each participant, drew upon a line from the Spiderman movie franchise to sum it up; “Teachers have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.”
[Photograph is of Byron Lewis IV, 2019 graduate and former president of the Call Me MISTER K-State chapter. He is now an elementary teacher in the Turner District of Kansas City, Kansas. During the 2023 State Legislative session, Lewis participated in a panel discussion about the future of teaching at an event sponsored by Kansas State’s College of Education at the Topeka Center for Advanced Learning and Careers.]