SCHOOLS | February 20, 2019
Currently, African American men represent just two percent of teachers in the nation and there’s even less in Illinois. Butler College Prep Principal Chris Goins is working on a solution.
“There are so many initiatives trying to recruit men of color into the classroom, but that’s after they are in college,” Goins said. “For whatever reason no one has really thought about how do we do this and identify them in high school at the same time.”
His “Intro to Urban Education” class—new to Butler this year–was specifically created to introduce students of color to a career in education.
His class of about 20 seniors is set up for the students to discuss social justice issues and potential solutions. They’re required to follow the news and policy around education. During one in class assignment, the students had to research the 2019 mayoral candidates and then defend who would best serve the city’s educational needs.
The premise of the class puts focus on what Goins calls the “two percent crisis.” He said he wants to create awareness with the hopes of empowering them to pursue a career in education so they can make an impact.
His approach seems to be working, according to his students.
Da’Mechi Taylor, 18, said he will major in urban education in the fall when he goes away for college.
“This class definitely opened my eyes to become a teacher. I want to come back to Chicago and give back to my community.”
As a student athlete, Da’Mechi said that the class has made him realize that there’s more for his future than a chance at the NBA.
“This class is very informative,” he said. “Being a black man in Chicago, I see the poverty, but this class really opened my eyes and inspired me to become a teacher so I can help young black men and women, and Latinos. That’s going to be my way of giving back.”
His classmate Isaias Martinez said he recognizes the impact that a male teacher of color can have on students. Although he’s not yet certain if teaching is for him, he acknowledges that the class has been a great experience so far.
“I’m leaning that way,” Isaias said in regards to teaching. “I didn’t see anyone successful who looks like me and I feel like that’s what male students of color need in order to achieve or pursue that level of excellence.”
Goins said that research has confirmed that students perform better academically when there’s a man of color in front of them.
“I always like to [say] we’re windows and mirrors,” he said. “We’re a window because they can see the possibilities of going to college and majoring in education. And we’re mirrors because we look like them and they can relate and speak to us. Research confirms that kids need those affirmations in the classroom.”
Goins said the desire to create this particular class was formed and fleshed out during his time as a Chicago Surge Fellow, a fellowship that works closely with Chicago teachers.
“It was my capstone project,” he said. “I’m incredibly passionate about increasing the number of men of color in the classroom.”
Goins has even bigger plans for students who come through his class in the future. He would like to work with colleges and universities to set aside scholarships for qualified students who commit to pursuing a degree in urban education. He also wants to form a partnership with businesses and government agencies to get students summer job opportunities that involve working with youth.
As the students graduate and move on, Goins said he hopes one message from their time with him sticks.
“My message is always that it’s okay that some of you may not major in education but I do want you to view this as a movement and a revolution,” he said. “No matter what you choose to pursue, know that there’s a way you can always give back and support this kind of initiative.”