Sometimes, it takes a student to school the teacher.
And this is what happened to sixth-grade teacher Robbie Curry last week.
”[My student] was like, well it’s not that often that you see a black male being a teacher,” Curry recalls of the conversation. “It’s quite often that [black men are] working part-time jobs.”
Curry said he is now even more conscious of his potential impact as a black man on his predominantly black and Latino students at The Bronx School of Science, Inquiry and Investigation in New York.
Nationally, black men comprise 2 percent of the nation’s 4.8 million teachers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the lack of black male teachers earlier this month.
Duncan has called for the expansion of alternative recruitment programs, such as Teach for America to produce the nation’s next generation of teachers.
“It energizes me, knowing that I am part of a movement to increase [the number of black male teachers],” said Adamah Cole, a Teach for America recruiter.
Teach for America is a national non-profit which recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools.
Teach for America recruited Cole in 2006, and he taught fourth grade for two years in the Bronx before he was hired to help recruitment efforts for the organization.
One way Teach for America has expanded its outreach to black students is by visiting more historically black colleges then in year’s past.
A record 35,000 invidividuals applied to Teach for America in 2009.
“We are disproportionately recruiting people of color, including African-American and Latino and Hispanic students,” Cole said. “Student achievement is at the core of everything [Teach for America] does, but given the fact some of our corps members share the background of our students, there is the potential for added impact.”
Robbie Curry agrees.
“I think that does something for a kid,” Curry said. “It tells him that he can also do something [in life.]”