By Aria Brent,
AFRO Staff Writer
Though educators of all races, creeds and colors can and do connect with scholars of different backgrounds each day, the feeling of familiarity is an unmatched sentiment when it comes to the experience of having your first Black teacher.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen for Black young men in the classroom. Only two percent of America’s teachers are both Black and male, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With numbers this low, there’s a lack of representation in classrooms across the nation. Being taught by a Black man is a privilege few have experienced–but all deserve.
“It was really interesting to see someone who looked like me, especially because I spent the first seven years of my educational career without a Black teacher and that cuts deep,” exclaimed Jarred Brent, when recalling his first impression of his first Black, male teacher.
“I had Asian teachers, women teachers, White male teachers– but to have a Black male teacher–that was cool.”
Brent’s first time being taught by a Black man occurred in 2006, after having transferred to a series of middle schools. In seventh grade Brent met Donte Goosby. Brent recalls Goosby teaching lesson plans and life lessons from his heart.
“He taught me how to carry myself and how to be mindful of how I talk to people. He didn’t want me to be a statistic and he always pushed me to be better. He encouraged me to be myself and to embrace my differences,” Brent said.
The influence Goosby had on Brent is one he hasn’t forgotten. It was his first time seeing a Black man in an educational setting and it showed him a whole new side of school and possibilities in education. The AFRO spoke with Goosby, who said he had a similar experience in middle school with a Black man, who he remembers as “Mr. Hill.”
“He was the first Black man with a white collar job I had met. Most of the strong Black men in my life had blue collar jobs and worked industrial jobs. He influenced me in regards to knowing that Black men can have ‘fancy jobs,’” stated Goosby when discussing the influence Hill had on him.
Today Goosby is a tenth grade history teacher at Centennial High School in Columbus, Ohio. He is the only Black male teacher in the school and is very aware of his presence. Goosby gives credit to Hill for indirectly influencing him to become a history teacher.
When Black men step into the classroom space to serve as teachers, they standout. Often, their reputations precede them.
“Oh everybody knew Mr. Brown!” exclaimed Alexander Johnson, recalling his Black, male sixth grade math teacher. “When you finally got to have him as a teacher, you were definitely happy. First, because you didn’t have any other teachers that looked like you. Second, because he was ‘the cool teacher!’”
“He looked like us but he also talked like us and he was a football coach at a college,” said Johnson. “There were a lot of things that we as Black males were interested in, that he was also interested in and we felt like we could talk to him.”
Johnson explained that a Black man teaching math was a new and exciting experience for him because of how uncommon it is.
“It’s important that Black men work as teachers because representation is important,” Goosby said. “Black boys need someone to look up to and connect with–someone who has a similar experience to them.”
Brent was lucky enough to have two Black, male teachers that made a significant impact on his life. In ninth grade he met his humanities teacher, Sidney Jones Jr., Ed. D.
When Brent met Jones, he met a Black man that had the same interest as him.
“That man means the world to me and everytime I see him I’m proud to tell him that. He taught my first period class, my freshman year of high school,” Brent fondly told the AFRO. “He was a six foot-five, Black man from Louisiana wearing Retro Jordans and a jumpsuit. He taught me about history and books and the way to process allegories, socratic seminars and debates.”
“He was into poetry and hip-hop,” continued Brent. “To see someone that also read comic books and was into hip-hop and sneakers meant alot to me. It was a glimmer of hope that I could be something more.”