Category Archives: Diversity Resources

Articles and research on diversity in education

Black Male Teachers Have An Impact On White Students, Too

Preston Thorne, an African-American former teacher and coach, now serves as outreach coordinator and student success coach at the University of South Carolina. In this essay, he shares his thoughts on the positive impact that he and his black male colleagues have had not only on black students but also on their white classmates. He notes that only two percent of U.S. teachers are African American whereas 80 percent are white women. Meanwhile, half of the nation’s school children are students of color. Woody Exley

Preston Thorne

I was wasting time on Twitter when I came across a post that stopped me mid-scroll. The original post posed a question: How many black male educators did you have in kindergarten through 12th grade.

One of my former students chimed in with a shocking number: One…Coach Thorne.

That’s me; that’s who I was. I taught social studies at Blythewood High School (in South Carolina) for 11 years and was an assistant football coach.

At first glance, the number one seems to be an indictment and a referendum on what we in education circles have known forever — we need more black men in the classroom. But upon further inspection, with a little critical analysis, I believe there is power in one.

Fewer Black Boys Dropping Out

Statistics tell us that having just one African American teacher in elementary school reduces drop-out rates among black boys by nearly 40 percent and increases their recognition as gifted students.

But stats don’t tell the story.

The story is a student sharing that my class was the first time they really learned about the triumphant history of African Americans in the United States. The story is a text message from a former football player telling me about his future career plans and how much the lessons he learned playing football in high school shaped him. Having a black male leading a classroom can provide a mirror for young black students to see themselves as academics, leaders and professionals instead of those images often portrayed in the media.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Positive Impact on White Students

Author and educator Gloria Ladson Billings argues that having teachers of color impacts white children also.

As she notes, it is important for white students to see black people as capable and able to hold some position of authority over them.

My personal experience confirms these theories. 

Stats can’t tell the story of a white teenage girl seeing a big, bearded black man in Target and doing their secret handshake, while her parents suspiciously watch only to find out it’s Coach Thorne, their child’s favorite teacher.

Having a black male in front of the classroom can provide a window for white students who may never get to encounter the full humanity of a black man.

Positive Effects in the Real World

In an increasingly polarized digital world, any opportunities to interact with someone of another race in the real world can have positive effects.

Though I no longer teach, I am still the ONE for a new group of students — serving as the Student Success Coach in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina.

In October, we will be inviting a select group of black male educators to campus to provide us with insight and experiences so we can build a game plan for creating more ONES.

Every time you see a black man in the classroom or as a coach or as a principal, I guarantee that he is the ONE for someone.

Teachers of Color Lacking In Most Connecticut Schools

Although students of color account for almost half of the enrollment in Connecticut’s public schools, only about nine percent of educators are persons of color.

Most of the teachers of color are concentrated in the major cities of Hartford New Haven, New Britain and Bridgeport. Some smaller cities and towns, such as New London Bloomfield, also have sizable numbers of teachers of color.

Overall, 46 percent of students in the state’s public schools are persons of color while only about nine percent of educators — including administrators and teachers — are persons of color.

Following are the percentages of educators who are persons of color and students of color in selected cities and towns.

School District              % of Minority                        % of Minority
                                          Students                               Educators

Avon                                     33                                           3
Berlin                                   19                                            1
Bloomfield                          90                                          25
Bridgeport                          87                                          26
Danbury                              66                                          12
East Granby                        23                                            4
East Hartford                      85                                          12
East Windsor                      40                                           12
Enfield                                  29                                           3
Farmington                         38                                           5
Glastonbury                       28                                            4
Granby                                14                                            4
Greenwich                          38                                           10
Hartford                             90                                            25
Manchester                       64                                            10
Meriden                             70                                              8
Middletown                       52                                              9
New Britain                       80                                            18
New Haven                       87                                             26
New London                     81                                             19
Newington                        40                                               4
Redding                             16                                               3
Rock Hill                             44                                              3
Simsbury                           24                                              2
South Windsor                 39                                              5
Stamford                          70                                             16
Vernon                              42                                               5
Waterbury                        82                                             13
West Hartford                 43                                               8
Westport                          18                                               5
Windsor                           74                                             17
Windsor Locks               39                                                6

Connecticut Takes Steps To Increase Teacher Diversity

Connecticut’s state board of education has taken a number of steps to increase the number of teachers of color in the state’s public schools.

According to reporting by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas of the Connecticut Mirror, the board adopted a number of initiatives in recent years.

One program OK’d by the board will allow college graduates without a teaching degree to gain teaching certification. Teach for America will run this program, which is expected to enroll about 20 bilingual individuals each year. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and with at least a 3.0 grade point average.

In another initiative, the board late in 2018 voted to allow Relay, an alternative program, to continue to operate following completion of a pilot program. Some 91 people completed the pilot program last year, of which 8 percent were white. Relay enables paraprofessionals and others without a teaching degree to pursue a program leading to teaching certification.