Lesson Plan: Teacher Diversity -- IUP leads a coalition addressing the national shortage of African American male schoolteachers

By Chauncey Ross
November 30, 2012
Appeared in the
Fall-Winter 2012 issue of IUP Magazine

With African American men holding about only 1 percent of schoolteacher positions in the nation, Professor Bob Millward is leading a regional effort to recruit qualified applicants to teacher preparation programs.

A Dismal Number

Corey Burnett and Terrence King

Teachers Corey Burnett, Gateway High School, and Terence King, Turner Elementary School

Racial tension dominated American culture in the 1960s, as anger and confrontations drew prejudice into the spotlight. In the regions where people didn’t see or experience the protests and discord firsthand, the nightly TV newscasts brought the stories into their living rooms.

Southwestern Pennsylvania, where Bob Millward grew up, wasn’t a hotbed for the riots or bigotry seen south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Discrimination took more passive forms.

For Millward, an early lesson came from a graduate school professor, an African American man who explained to his students one day that he had to plan his frequent trips from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., in a different way than most of the white people he knew. He told of carefully choosing places to dine because some restaurants wouldn’t serve him and of planning ahead to find a hotel that would allow him to register as a guest.

His story made a lasting impression on Millward, who began to realize how much he didn’t know about African American culture because of the absence of black adults in his life as a child.

Clearly, he isn’t alone. Thousands upon thousands of students, mainly white, have grown up with some of the most influential adults outside their families—their teachers—being the same as they are. And they have come of age with a narrow cultural perspective.

Armed with a $361,500 grant from the Heinz Endowments, Millward is leading a regional mission to change that. The coordinator of the Administration and Leadership Studies program in the Department of Professional Studies in Education at IUP, he has launched a program to recruit African American males into teaching.

Nationally, the number right now is dismal, less than 2 percent.

“My philosophy is this: Diversity helps,” Millward said. “We’re doing business now across the globe, and to understand the importance of diversity—it can’t be underplayed.”

Bob Millward

IUP Professional Studies in Education professor Bob Millward spearheaded the initiative to recruit African American males into teaching.

The low percentage of black men in teaching doesn’t stand to improve, considering current enrollment in teacher preparation programs, he said. “If you look at any teacher education program in Pennsylvania, you’re not going to see that figure change. Right now, IUP has 1 to 2 percent African American males training to become teachers.”

A consortium of schools is promoting the recruitment project. Point Park University, California University of Pennsylvania, and the Community College of Allegheny County are partnering with IUP to draw students into teaching preparation programs. A new website, www.blackmenteaching.org, features African American male teachers telling their stories in video interviews and prompts young black men to take the first steps.

“Ever consider teaching?” the site asks. The question, so fundamental, has become the slogan for the campaign.

“We’re going to put up posters in schools,” Millward said. “We’re also working with church groups and even putting our brochures in African American barber shops.”

Keep Reading»

More from the Fall-Winter 2012 Issue of IUP Magazine

Young Donors

Young Donors

Students are boosting their IUP philanthropy. What gives?

The Press and the Passion

The Press and the Passion

Susan Snyder ’85 on winning the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

 

Message from the President

Several principles will guide us as we formulate together our vision of the future IUP.

Web Exclusives

Silent Generation at College

Bob Henger ’63 devotes a chapter of his book to his years at Indiana State College.

Unboxing the Memories

Some of the more unusual memorabilia that alumni have lovingly donated to IUP.

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | In Brief | Letters to the Editor

The Long-Shot Season

In 1979, the soccer team was sinking. Then came Trevor.

Crimson Core

Alumni Association Board Officers, and how they got that way.

Mainframe to Mobile App

50 years of computing at IUP.

« First  < Previous  |  Next >    Last »

Challenges to Recruitment

One of the major challenges to the project is reaching African American boys and young men at decision-making times in their lives, Millward said. “We need to visit public schools and get them thinking about becoming a teacher. But there are layers of problems.”

Statistics bear out the difficulty of the task. Millward cites a Harvard study showing that, out of 100 African American males in 10th grade at an urban school, half will drop out before their senior year. Of the 50 who graduate, 30 will be qualified for college, and 20 will go. “Of those, 9 will graduate, and 1 might major in teacher education.”

A professionally diverse advisory committee is guiding the project to bring more black men into teaching.

“Encouraging African American males to seriously consider education as a profession is difficult,” said Corey Burnett, an African American sociology teacher at Gateway High School in Monroeville and a member of the advisory committee. “There are stereotypes that make it a hard sell. It’s seen as a low-paid profession and a women’s profession. To become certified, there is a battery of tests.”

Cory Burnett

Corey Burnett, Gateway High School

Of the African American men who decide to become teachers, fewer want to work in elementary schools and more choose to teach in high schools, for which they need more specialized training.

“Becoming proficient with the content is one of the problems,” Burnett said. “We want to reach students at an early age, so they don’t have skills that need to be remediated when they are in high school.”

A tuition incentive program already in place in the region could play to the consortium’s benefit. The Pittsburgh Promise, a charitable foundation offering up to $40,000 in scholarships to qualifying city high school graduates, has put higher education within reach for thousands more students than in the past.

IUP also has a head start on attracting students from Pittsburgh schools through the Promise Plus grant awarded by the Heinz Foundation in 2009. The program brings elementary students to Indiana for summer workshops and allows students to earn IUP credits while in high school through dual enrollment.

The consortium’s recruitment initiative even appeals to black men already in college—those who haven’t declared a major or who may be having second thoughts about the courses they’ve chosen.

“They are fair game,” Millward said. If those students don’t switch to teaching, the call could extend to their friends or their brothers at home.

Burnett, who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at IUP, said the project is aimed at students at various ages. “We have some consensus at this point that the long-term solution is not in the 11th or 12th grade,” he said. “We really want to reach out to kids in 5th and 6th grades, in a mentoring way. As time goes on, it’s our goal to identify a core group that is younger and to help them to avoid behaviors that would exclude them from becoming good teachers.

“The goal is not to create African American teachers, but highly qualified teachers.”

That concern is top of mind for Millward and others on the project. When word of the grant first was posted on the university’s Facebook page, it drew mixed reaction.

“The best teachers should get the jobs,” one user posted. “Selection by sex or race prevents that from happening.”

“I agree!” another replied. “The most qualified should always get the job. That’s blatant discrimination.”

Phillip Woods, principal of West Mifflin Area High School, said that, as an administrator and an African American, he can advocate for employing a qualified yet diverse faculty.

“It sounds to me like Dr. Millward is trying to identify individuals who could be possible candidates and provide them with the appropriate training so that when they reach the opportunity to be hired, they have the necessary skills to be the successful candidate,” said Woods, a student in the IUP Administration and Leadership Studies doctoral program. “I’m 100 percent in favor of that, but I would never suggest or imply that people are hired based on certain characteristics.

“The main thing we have to focus on is to build the competencies, build the proficiencies, and build individuals who can successfully meet the requirements, so they are not easily turned away.”

Keep Reading»

More from the Fall-Winter 2012 Issue of IUP Magazine

Young Donors

Young Donors

Students are boosting their IUP philanthropy. What gives?

The Press and the Passion

The Press and the Passion

Susan Snyder ’85 on winning the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

 

Message from the President

Several principles will guide us as we formulate together our vision of the future IUP.

Web Exclusives

Silent Generation at College

Bob Henger ’63 devotes a chapter of his book to his years at Indiana State College.

Unboxing the Memories

Some of the more unusual memorabilia that alumni have lovingly donated to IUP.

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | In Brief | Letters to the Editor

The Long-Shot Season

In 1979, the soccer team was sinking. Then came Trevor.

Crimson Core

Alumni Association Board Officers, and how they got that way.

Mainframe to Mobile App

50 years of computing at IUP.

« First    < Previous  |  Next >    Last »

Setting an Example

Goals such as convincing young black men to major in education, training them as excellent teachers, and getting school boards to hire them are the quantifiable parts of the project. What would follow cannot easily be given a number or value. Black teachers would engender more cultural awareness in their students, according to Millward.

Ultimately, they’d be an example to African American boys of a rewarding career choice.

Tom Washington, superintendent of the Penn Hills School District, said African American men in the field can hold great sway over turning young minds to consider following them.

“I think that many of my students see me or see teachers as role models, and I think it’s in your everyday walk and they notice your passion in what you are doing for them,” he said.

Washington, who is African American, is a doctoral student in the Administration and Leadership Studies program that IUP offers jointly with East Stroudsburg University. He also has assisted with the consortium’s campaign.

“It boils down to that relationship you have with kids,” he said. “That’s what this is about—how you can make the lives of others better.”

As one of the few black men on the faculty at Turner Elementary School in the Wilkinsburg School District, Terence King believes his students are learning things they can’t get from other teachers.

“It’s not simply about whites getting exposed to black male teachers, but even black [students] being exposed to African American male teachers,” said King, a member of the project’s advisory committee. “Maybe their own experiences with their fathers have not been the most positive.”

King, who received his bachelor’s degree from IUP in 1999, is in his 11th year of teaching.

Terrence King

Terence King, Turner Elementary School

“The things kids have told me over the years would bring tears to your eyes,” he said. “They tell me about their dad, how they weren’t around, or how they were mistreated…and they would call me their dad.”

That relationship comes from imparting not only book knowledge, but life lessons.

“When you have experienced things and can relate to their circumstances, you can give them some insight,” he said. “They need drive and determination, and for me, it was huge.

“At IUP, there were two professors who were influential in my life, Lloyd Briscoe and Roger Briscoe. I grew up and had my dad there, but it was more insightful to see them and the way they conducted themselves.”

Ramon Riley, an art teacher in the Pine- Richland School District, graduated in 1997 with a degree in Art Education from IUP and now is pursing a master’s in Art.

When Riley grew up in economically depressed Braddock, he wanted to be like his teachers.

“I always looked up to my teachers as the experts of their craft, and I thought two teachers in particular saved my life,” he said. “There’s a stereotype of young men following in their parents’ footsteps. These were people who helped to raise me in a similar fashion, so I was following in those people’s footsteps.”

A teacher for 15 years, Riley was the only African American on the Pine-Richland faculty for 13 of those years. He agreed that his students get something more from him.

“Most of my students listen to more contemporary black music than I do, so seeing me in person is a chance for them to see what they probably have romanticized about. They see football players with dreadlocks or they see rappers with the same color skin, yet they don’t have daily interactions with those people that they are following.

“It was intimidating for many of them when I first started teaching, but now it is a breath of fresh air for a lot of my students. I am something different from what their environment has to offer.”

Keep Reading»

More from the Fall-Winter 2012 Issue of IUP Magazine

Young Donors

Young Donors

Students are boosting their IUP philanthropy. What gives?

The Press and the Passion

The Press and the Passion

Susan Snyder ’85 on winning the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

 

Message from the President

Several principles will guide us as we formulate together our vision of the future IUP.

Web Exclusives

Silent Generation at College

Bob Henger ’63 devotes a chapter of his book to his years at Indiana State College.

Unboxing the Memories

Some of the more unusual memorabilia that alumni have lovingly donated to IUP.

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | In Brief | Letters to the Editor

The Long-Shot Season

In 1979, the soccer team was sinking. Then came Trevor.

Crimson Core

Alumni Association Board Officers, and how they got that way.

Mainframe to Mobile App

50 years of computing at IUP.

« First    < Previous  |  Next >    Last »

Need for 30 Years

“I know that, because of my impact on them as a black man, their vision of life is going to be different.”

Millward said school administrators once downplayed the concept of multicultural education in districts with student bodies composed almost entirely of one race.

“They would say their teachers didn’t need it because there were no blacks in the district. That is not what it is about. Multicultural education is about understanding diversity and ethnocentricity. If you are in your own culture with no exposure to other cultures, what are we going to do to educate students to the idea of tolerance to others?”

Woods agreed. “When you get into the work force [or] whatever career path you choose, there definitely will be diversity. You don’t want to be the one that’s been living in a box all your life and all your perceptions are based on your experience with TV or music videos or the Internet. Diversity can’t be from sports figures or heroes from movies.”

Given the opportunity to recruit black students into teaching, Riley said he would hold his experience as an attraction.

“I say all the time that I’m blessed because I get to teach the people who will change the world,” he said. “And I know that, because of my impact on them as a black man, their vision of life is going to be different.”

Ramon Riley

Ramon Riley, a 1997 IUP graduate who is back to pursue a master’s in Art, has been an art teacher in the Pine-Richland School District for 15 years.

The thrust of the consortium’s project goes beyond simply recruiting men as classroom instructors. As a superintendent, Washington said he tells students at career day events about other opportunities in education—jobs such as counselors, principals, central office workers, and superintendents.

The effort is too important to be hurried, he said.

“People have to be patient with it. You’re literally planting the seeds, and you have to give it time to cultivate.”

For Millward, a professor for 42 years at IUP and an educator for 47, a few more years may be worth the wait.

He recalled the story of his graduate school professor, the African American figure whose experience made such a strong impression on him so long ago.

This effort, he said, “has probably been necessary for the last 30 years.”


Watch Video:

Terence King Explains Why He Became a Teacher»

Corey Burnett Discusses Diversity in the Classroom»

More from the Fall-Winter 2012 Issue of IUP Magazine

Young Donors

Young Donors

Students are boosting their IUP philanthropy. What gives?

The Press and the Passion

The Press and the Passion

Susan Snyder ’85 on winning the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

 

Message from the President

Several principles will guide us as we formulate together our vision of the future IUP.

Web Exclusives

Silent Generation at College

Bob Henger ’63 devotes a chapter of his book to his years at Indiana State College.

Unboxing the Memories

Some of the more unusual memorabilia that alumni have lovingly donated to IUP.

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | In Brief | Letters to the Editor

The Long-Shot Season

In 1979, the soccer team was sinking. Then came Trevor.

Crimson Core

Alumni Association Board Officers, and how they got that way.

Mainframe to Mobile App

50 years of computing at IUP.

« First    < Previous  |  Next >    Last »

Video: Terence King Explains Why He Became a Teacher

Terence King, a teacher at Turner Elementary School in Wilkinsburg and a 1999 graduate of IUP, discusses the IUP professors who were influential in his becoming a teacher and the reasons he finds the profession fulfilling. King is on the advisory committee of an IUP-led initiative to recruit African American male teachers.

« First    < Previous  |  Next >    Last »

Video: Corey Burnett Discusses Diversity in the Classroom

Corey Burnett, a sociology teacher at Gateway High School who received his master's and doctoral degrees from IUP, discusses how he as an African American man brings a different perspective to the classroom. Burnett is on the advisory committee of an IUP-led initiative to recruit African American male teachers.

« First    < Previous  |  Next >  Last »