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East Coast-Gulf Coast Partnership Aims to Increase Number of Male Teachers of Color

UHD Partnering with Philadelphia’s Summer House Institute to Support Aspiring Educators


By Mike Emery

The mirror doesn’t lie.  

When one peers into their reflection, they can see potential, power and promise. In K-12 classrooms, students often look to their teachers as a reflection of what they can accomplish in life. But when students of color don’t see teachers who look like them or come from similar backgrounds, their academic productivity can suffer. 

This is especially true for Black male students. Studies have demonstrated that the presence of a Black men in the classroom decreases dropout rates and increases the likelihood of their students seeking opportunity in higher education. 

The University of Houston-Downtown has long addressed the shortage of teachers of color within its Department of Urban Education and in recent years stepped up its efforts by becoming part of the nationwide Call Me MISTER Initiative (focusing on increasing male teachers of color). 

Now, UHD’s Call Me MISTER (or Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) Initiative has joined forces with East Coast colleagues, the Summer House Institute (SHI), to support and prepare even more male educators of color. This summer, they’re teaming up to host a cohort of 18 students, all aspiring educators, for a four-week summer leadership institute. This month long event runs through Aug. 6 and is being conducted here in Houston with sessions taking place at UHD’s College of Public Service.  

“We are honored that the Summer House Institute has chosen Houston as its next destination to support community growth,” said Dr. Jerry Wallace, Assistant Dean for UHD’s College of Public Service supporting the University’s Call Me MISTER Initiative. “We’re also pleased to partner in this summer initiative, as our institution sits in an urban community rich with history and eager to support academic and career opportunities for its youth.” 

Participating students have received a $2,500 stipend that can be applied to further academic endeavors that support their goal of becoming teachers. Among those receiving valuable insights during this program are six UHD Urban Education students.  

During the leadership institute, students will learn more about classroom management, meet other men of color who share the same professional ambitions, and become more aware of inequities taking place in education. 

“The goal is to equip students with the resources they will need in order to effectively serve a diverse population of students, support the communities where they come from and work to improve academic outcomes,” Wallace said. “These opportunities provide professional development in an effort to prepare students to be effective educators and increase the number men of color in classroom spaces.” 

In addition to receiving information critical to their growth as future teachers, students will receive mentorship from Black male educators from area school districts. This will enhance their understanding of what to expect in classrooms and the overall education landscape. Additionally, having a mentor will support students’ professional network as they approach college graduation and begin seeking opportunities within regional school districts.  

The Summer House Institute was founded by Philadelphia teachers Vincent Cobb and Rashiid Coleman, who recognized the urgency of supporting Black male K-12 male students. They observed declining academic performance among these students, as well as a dwindling number of Black male teachers to serve as role models. They paired their energies to create the initiatives Black Male Educators Convening and the Summer House Institute (supported by the Walton Family Foundation and the Powell Foundation), which provides mentoring and professional development opportunities for college students seeking careers as teachers.  

The efforts of Cobb and Coleman complement those of UHD’s Call Me MISTER program. The University recently became the first institution in Texas to host a Call Me MISTER program (a nationwide initiative founded at Clemson University) and has been working in tandem with area school districts to promote successful outcomes for future teachers of color. UHD’s Call Me MISTER also is affiliated with the UHD’s Men of L.E.G.A.C.I. program, which supports male students of color at UHD. The Call Me MISTER is led by Kemonta Jackson, Program Coordinator, supported by Dr. Matthew Fugate, Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair of the University’s Department of Urban Education, and is housed within the Department of Urban Education in the College of Public Service.

Ultimately, both Summer House Institute and Call Me MISTER are committed to addressing the staggering low number of Black male teachers in U.S. classrooms. According to recent reports, Black males comprise only 2 percent of the American teaching workforce. Wallace and those leaders from Summer House Institute are confident that collaborating their energies and hosting this year's summer program is yet another step to growing a stronger population of male educators of color. 

“Opportunities such as this leadership institute allow for Black male students to actively participate in enhanced professional development,” Jackson said. “This kind of exposure to higher education issues, as well as mentorship opportunities, are important. Additionally, partnerships such as this one between SHI and Call Me MISTER are essential in the success of students right here at UHD as they increase recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation rates for our own male students of color.” 

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.