Brandon Miller teaching his class.
Story Education

Making a Difference: Men of Color as Teachers

Alex Beall

With too few men of color going into K-12 education, see how the CSU is working to diversify California’s educators and address its teacher shortage.

Brandon Miller teaching his class.

​Brandon Miller teaches his second-grade class at Wilder's Preparatory School in Inglewood.


​​​ The need for black male teachers is the greatest it has ever been.” – Brandon Miller, 2nd-grade teacher, Wilder’s Preparatory School

When Brandon Miller heads to his second-grade class every morning at Wilder's Preparatory School in Inglewo​​​​od, there’s no question in his mind about why he’s there.

“I have to do whatever part I can to slow the increasing education gaps between inner-city Black children and their more affluent, predominately white counterparts,” says the 2013 graduate of the CSU’s online teaching credentialing program, CalStateTEACH.

“One of the lowest-performing groups of students is young Black males,” continues Miller. “Whether it be because they are overdisciplined or simply that they can never buy into education because most of their primary education is coming from white women, the need for Black male teachers is the greatest it’s ever been.”

During his time in CalStateTEACH, Miller participated in a men’s group created by the program’s systemwide director, Ernest Black, Ed.D., that specifically focused on helping male students of color complete the program.

“Male teachers have a different overall experience in the world of education, and I would believe especially so as a Black male teacher. We are typically called on for more,” Miller explains. “The men's group helped build support by allowing Dr. Black to share his experiences [as a K-12 educator himself] and how he dealt with them, but also by having us each see that those challenges are not personal or isolated occurrences.”

The Difference a Teacher of Color Can Make

While California contends with an overall deficit of teachers, it particularly lacks teachers of color. Data from the California Department of Education shows that only one-third of teachers are non-white, even though students of color make up about three-quarters of California’s student population. In addition, men of color comprise less than 10 percent of California’s teaching force, with Black men making up 1 percent of that group.

Yet research from the Learning Policy Institute shows that students of color perform better in school, have fewer unexcused absences and suspensions, and are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college when they’ve had a teacher of color. “Having at least one Black teacher in grades 3 to 5 cut the high school dropout rate in half for [young Black male students],” the report says.

“For decades, [those of us in education] have been concerned with the lack of teachers of color—in particular the lack of African American men who come into teaching,” says Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, Ph.D., Assistant Vice Chancellor, Educator Preparation and Public School Programs at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.

“When you think about how many Black teachers these education students themselves had in their career, it’s probably zero or one, so they oftentimes can’t see themselves as a teacher,” continues Dr. Grenot-Scheyer. “It is a really complex problem that requires multiple solutions.”

That’s why the CSU has introduced a variety of programs aimed at attracting and preparing men of color to become K-12 teachers, including recruiting at high schools and middle schools and creating clear educational pathways from community college to a CSU campus.

There are also Integrated Teacher Education Programs that incorporate credentialing into the four-year degree and EduCorps, which recruits from among undergraduate students majoring in subjects other than education in the hope of attracting more diverse students, especially in high-need areas like math, science, special education and bilingual education.

Financial aid options like the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation’s Residency Year Scholarship for students hoping to do a teaching residency also make it easier for students to pursue their credential.

If You’re a Man of Color ... Consider Teaching

If we want classrooms to reflect society and have teachers of color as role models, we have to be proactive.” – Dr. Joshua Einhorn, Future Minority Male Teachers of Color, CSUN

Across the CSU, more initiatives have cropped up aimed specifically at preparing male teachers of color. For example, the Future Minority Male Teachers of California (F2MTC) project recruits high schoolers for CSU teacher education programs.

Active since 2016, F2MTC is now on six CSU campuses (CSUN, Cal State LA, CSU Dominguez Hills, Cal State East Bay, San Diego State, San José State). Students can tap into a network of other male teachers as well as fellow students, find a mentor, and get help with enrollment and scholarships, among other resources.

“If we want classrooms to reflect society and have teachers of color as role models, we must take proactive measures and establish additional support in teacher preparation programs across the CSU,” says Joshua Einhorn, Ed.D., F2MTC’s program manager, who is based at CSUN.

Every year, Cal State Fullerton’s Men of Color in Education (MCE) program sets a goal of recruiting and preparing 20 new male educators of color.

“MCE is designed specifically to tear down the misconceptions regarding men of color in education,” says Lisa Kirtman, Ph.D., dean of Cal State Fullerton’s College of Education. “As more and more students enter the program, a network of men of color in education will grow and provide community, mentorship and guidance as future cohorts enter the field of education.”

MCE offers students professional learning communities, workshops, holistic counseling and mentorship. To help create an even greater sense of community, everyone takes one course together, “Literacy Education for Social Change,” taught by La Puente Elementary School principal George Herrera.

The impact of diversifying California’s teaching force is profound: Encouraging and supporting children of color in their education changes the very fabric of families, communities and cultures.

“It’s not just the young B​​lack students who benefit from having an African American teacher in their life,” Dr. Grenot-Scheyer says. “It is the white students, it is the Hispanic students who benefit from having this competent adult in their lives teaching them. Having an African American teacher helps to reduce persistent stereotypes and dispel myths about people of color.”