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'Call me Mister' program looks to create pathway for Black men to become teachers

"Representation matters... Simply put, very few males have actually been taught by someone that looks like them."

KENNESAW, Ga. — Cameron Barron isn't the type to talk much, and he admits he's not one to speak in front of the class. But it's a spot he says he'll get used to, now that he's chosen his profession.

"My mom's an educator. My nana's a pre-K teacher. My auntie's a spare teacher," Barron said. "So it's just kind of in me already, but now it's being brought out of me. I'm ready for it."

The rising senior is part of the inaugural 'Call Me Mister' program at Kennesaw State University (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models). The educational recruitment program aims to increase the number of African American male teachers in the classroom, and for participating students, the mission is a personal one.

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"I really haven't had male figures or African American figures coming through school," Barron explained to his fellow cohorts. Dr. Glenn was my first African American male teacher I've had in like eighteen years of school."

"The unfortunate reality is males of color only constitute two percent of the teaching population," Dr. Tristan Glenn, associate professor and Call Me Mister program director, explained. 

"Representation matters," he said. "Simply put, very few males have actually been taught by someone that looks like them."

Former Georgia pre-K teacher of the year Johnathon Hines knows those statistics well. It's part of the reason why he, too, pursued teaching. 

"A lot of times students don't have a father figure or a role model they can look up to," Hines said. "But they can come to the school and see us, male teachers doing great things every day."

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Hines is glad to hear that students like Barron and others participating in "Call Me Mister" are committing to teaching, and while the path may not be easy, the men agree their choice has the power to change lives.

"If I can change just one student's perspective on life," Barron said, "That student can change another person's life, and it's just a domino effect."

Call Me Mister started at Clemson University, and the program reports it has placed 344 certified teachers in SC classrooms since the first graduating class of 2004. Kennesaw State is the second Georgia college to participate in the program, following Georgia College & State University.

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