Philly educators group looks to high school to introduce young black men to teaching career

Black men make up about 4 percent of Philadelphia’s public school teachers, and a city organization wants to raise that by extending the career pipeline.

The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice is working to add more to city schools by identifying potential candidates who are still in high school.

Fellowship CEO Vincent Cobb said it’s a way to address the misconceptions young black males may have about teaching.

“We’re trying to change a narrative, and we’re trying to shift mindsets and culture,” he said. “And that has to start early. That can’t start when you’re looking for a job your senior year of college and you’re just trying to get paid.”

Fellowship’s Protégé after-school mentorship program introduces students to a career in teaching.

Participants shadow and observe the work teachers do, while learning about the impact teaching can have on their community. They can take on the role themselves as a student-teacher.

Chris McFadden, the dean of students at Mastery’s Shoemaker campus, leads the program there.

“They see that you can be a teacher and be transparent with students, and teachers aren’t really robots,” he said.

Simon Gratz senior Malik Washington participated in Protégé at his school. He said the thought of being a teacher was once laughable.

He has since changed his tune.

“I see that there is a need for black educators,” he said. “If I have the power to change that, that’s something I might be willing to do.”

Of the 20 students who participated last year, four have expressed a strong interest in teaching.
The Fellowship is now developing a summer program for rising college juniors and seniors that will offer classroom experience with public school students.

The Fellowship aims to groom high school students into viable candidates for teaching jobs. The goal is to have 1,000 black men teaching in Philadelphia schools by 2025.

“It’s going to take that reaching back early,” Cobb said. “And also informing districts on ways they can improve, so they can recruit, retain, and develop highly effective black men in schools.”

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