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Reality infused into Livingstone’s teacher education program: early successes seen with African American male instructors – Livingstone College in North Carolina

The chart below looks at student in institutions and departments
offering teacher education. It is subdivided into five blocks, one
comparing actual numbers, the other four comparing percentages. The
chart reads as follows:

First block: 108,200 White males and 310,624 White females were enrolled in teacher education programs.

Second block: White males comprised 79 percent of all the males
enrolled in teacher education programs, and White females comprised 81
percent of all females enrolled.

Third block: Whites, male and female combined, comprised 80 percent of all those enrolled in teacher education programs.

Fourth block: White males comprised 20.7 percent of all persons
enrolled in teacher education programs, and White females comprised
59.7 percent of all persons enrolled.

Fifth block: Males comprised 25.8 percent of all Whites enrolled in
teacher education programs, and females comprised 74.2 percent of all
Whites enrolled.

(- signifies less than .1 percent)


SALISBURY, N.C. – It’s no secret that there’s a woeful shortage of
Black teachers in school systems around the country. But also
disturbing is that Black male teachers are even more scarce.

In recent years, the education field has taken a big hit as more and
more Black collegians choose to pursue other careers which offer higher
income and more prestige. The end result has produced a drain on what
was once a plentiful supply of Black teachers.

The effect of the Black-teacher shortage is haunting African
American communities everywhere. Many observers believe that the lack
of Black male role models as teachers and educators is a major factor
in the rising crime rate among young African American males.

Mary Dillworth, senior director for research at the American
Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, says, “It’s an issue
that’s been with us for more than a decade now. We started to see a
decline in the early eighties.”

In an effort to help increase the number of Black educators, several
colleges and foundations have begun programs to recruit and train
African American teachers, particularly men. Some of the institutions
involved in the effort include Morehouse College, Bethune-Cookman
College, the Ford Foundation, and the DeWitt Wallace Reader’s Digest

“Over the past eight to ten years there has been an increase in the
number of programs to increase the number of African American
teachers,” says Dillworth. “From what we can ascertain from the data we
have, they are very successful.”

The Center for Teaching Excellence

Recently, Livingstone College in North Carolina created the Center
for Teaching Excellence (CTE), which has a two-fold purpose: to supply
more Black teachers for public classrooms; and to increase the number
of Black males in the teaching profession.

“Every day, the media gives us stories about the tragic rise in
crime, especially those crimes aided by violence,” says Dr. Burnett
Joiner, Livingstone’s president. “All too often, the victim and suspect
are young Black males. We believe our program is a pro-active way to
address…serious problems.

“It at least begins to hold a candle of hope for young men and women
who would aspire to teach, to know they can come to Livingstone to
realize their dream of a college education,” he continues. “With their
education in tow, they will be symbols of light to our children.”

Livingstone offers ample incentive for Blacks to pursue a career in
education. CTE provides full, four-year scholarships for those who are
accepted. In exchange for the scholarship, students agree to teach in
North Carolina for three years after they graduate. They must also
maintain a “B” academic average and carry at least a 15-hour academic
load every semester.

CTE, started in 1993, is the brainchild of Harold Fleming, a retired
public school administrator and Livingstone alumnus. Since its
inception, the program has expanded its scope to include women.

Last May, five of the eight members of CTE’s first class graduated.
The remaining three are scheduled to graduate in December. The next
graduating class, which is scheduled for commencement in the spring,
also has eight members, including three women – CTE’s first female

“This is an exciting program,” says Fleming, CTE director who
retired as superintendent of schools in Kinston, N.C., in 1995. “We now
have an opportunity at Livingstone to help change things for the
better. The people who come through our program get the opportunity to
help provide youngsters with a quality education while serving as good
role models, too. It’s a good way for our students to make a viable
contribution to society.”

The Importance of Early Exposure

Because African Americans have been opting for careers other than
teaching, a void has developed in the public school setting. As veteran
teachers retire, there aren’t enough new instructors entering the field
to replace them. That means that today’s Black youngsters aren’t
exposed to Black role models nearly as much as Black youngsters of past

“We have to bridge the gap between the people retiring and the new
people coming in,” says Fleming. “Teaching gives students the chance to
make a difference. Every successful person – regardless of gender or
race – had a teacher who played a key role in his or her life.”

Unlike the education curriculum at most other schools, CTE provides
its students with plenty of early exposure to the total spectrum of
teaching. Even as freshmen, CTE students must log at least twelve hours
of field experience, which involves working with teachers in the
classroom as observers and then as teacher assistants. During training,
they also learn how to implement effective strategies to maintain
discipline in the classroom.

They also serve as mentors to at-risk kids – those who, for one
reason or another, have been classified as difficult to teach. As these
teachers-to-be advance from freshman to senior year, the fieldtraining
hours increase accordingly.

“We don’t want our students to wait until their junior or senior
year to find out what teaching is all about,” Fleming explains. “The
way we go about it, we put our students in situations to help them
decide if a career in education is what they really want. Other
programs wait until the last year or so before students are exposed to
real-life situations. I think that’s too late.”

The Livingstone program also puts a lot of emphasis on students
getting involved in non-instructional duties as part of their career
preparation. Those duties include serving as monitors in the school
hall, in lunchroom, and at bus stops. They also make themselves
available for PTA meetings.

“We stress those non-instructional duties because it helps them get
tuned in to all facets of the field,” Fleming says. “They learn to
develop good communication skills with their peers and with students’
parents. They also learn how to deal with different rules and
regulations of their respective schools and school boards.”

The Beginning of the Pipeline

Six months have passed since CTE had its first graduating class. But
even in that short span of time, it’s clear that Livingstone has taken
big strides in developing a reputable pipeline for future educators.

All five May graduates are now working as teachers. Three members of
that class – Nakia Douglas, David Johnson and Mistor Williams – all
landed jobs in Winston-Salem. They agree that the CTE experience has
prepared them well for what they’re facing now as everyday teachers.

“There’s a family-type atmosphere at Livingstone,” says Douglas, who
teaches kindergarten. “You’re looked at as an individual and not as a
number. All the instructors – at one time or another – were in the
classroom, so they know what’s going on. They care about your success
as an educator.

“Being in education is more of a reward than I thought it would be,”
he continues. “I see kids growing in so many areas. As a Black male
role model, I have a lot of roles to fill. I’m a social worker, father,
preacher, big brother, all those things.”

Johnson, an elementary school teacher, acknowledges that without the
Center’s program, his desire to attend college would never have

“There’s no way I would have gone [to college] otherwise,” Johnson
says. “The program gave me a solid foundation and I got a lot of help
in preparing for the [National Teaching Examination].

“We also got a lot of support outside the classroom,” he adds. “That
was very helpful. We had weekly meetings with different school system
recruiters from around the state. We always had up-to-date information
on all the happenings in those school systems, so we always knew what
was going on in the real world of education.”

Giving back, explains Williams, who teaches middle school, has a lot to do with why he chose teaching as a career.

“Livingstone took a chance on a young man – me,” he says.
“Hopefully, I’m letting them see the fruits of their labor. If I can
say something to direct a young man or young lady, then I’ve given
back, not only to the Black community, but to the community at large.

“Teaching is a profession, not just a job,” continues Williams.
“That’s why I must carry myself as a professional at all times. As a
teacher, I could very well be the only role model for some of the kids
in my class.”

As a freshman, Williams picked up a lot of the nuances of the
profession when he and his CTE partners served as counselors and tutors
for a Head Start program. In Head Start, he faced the challenge of
dealing with several at-risk students.

Head Start “really got our feet wet,” Williams recalls. “At the
time, we didn’t know much about preparing students to learn. We know we
can’t reach everybody, even though we’d like to. But the key is being
sensitive to the needs of the kids, many of whom are going through much
tougher times than we did when we were kids. So the idea becomes: maybe
if you can help one student, then you can help another, and another,
and another.”

RELATED ARTICLE: The Drawback of Low Salaries

In general, the long hours and low pay for public school teachers
has been a turn-off for students when they begin making decisions about
choosing a career. In North Carolina, rookie teachers coming right out
of school can expect to earn $24,000 a year. But for those who have
become teachers in spit of that, the satisfaction comes from helping
youngsters reach their potential.

In the meantime, the state government in North Carolina realizes it
will have to boost the salary structure to attract and keep the best
instructors. To ensure that happens, the state has taken steps to
implement incremental pay raises. According to most estimates, the
North Carolina pay scale for starting teachers should match the
national average (roughly $32,000 annually) within the next three years.

“For some people, pay is a big issue,” says Mistor William, a
graduate of Livingstone College’s Center for Teaching Excellence who
teaches middle school in Winston-Salem, N.C. “And some guys may feel
that being a teacher is not masculine enough because there are so many
women teachers. But the way I see it, you’re more of a man to say,
‘Somebody helped me when I was a kid, now it’s time for me to do the
same for somebody else.”

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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