Mentorship program places more Black teachers in the classroom
Call Me MISTER offers a support system for future leaders in education.
A respected teacher-leadership program dedicated to recruiting, training and placing male African American teachers has made its way west for the first time.
Call Me MISTER, now offered in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Education, prepares male undergraduate students of color, especially Black men, for careers in K-12 education and aspires to cultivate “revolutionary educators.”
The acronym “MISTER” stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.
“We really do buy into the concept of being a servant leader,” said Rashad Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Education and director of the Call Me MISTER program at MSU Denver. “It’s a God-driven passion — to us, teaching is a calling.”
Veteran MISTERs — men already enrolled in college and working in education — mentor younger college students participating in the program. These new MISTERs then apply what they’re learning and mentor K-12 students by partnering with local school districts for school-based youth mentorship programs, campus events and activities.
MISTERs work to build a brotherhood that serves as a support system. In addition to the mentorship aspect, participants receive tuition assistance, professional development, curriculum instruction and assistance with job placement.
Anderson and undergraduate-student MISTERs Jordan Puch, Christopher Livingston and Joshua Barringer uprooted their lives in South Carolina to expand the program to MSU Denver’s School of Education, the westernmost participating location in the U.S.
All three attended South Carolina State University under the leadership of Anderson, who served as the director of the SCSU cohort. Over his eight-year tenure, the cohort flourished into a flagship program, which produced 17 Teachers of the Year and fostered presentations at more than 80 national and state conferences.
The conventional model of the program has been to recruit one cohort per university. Anderson’s vision is for MSU Denver’s School of Education and the greater Auraria Campus to serve the first Call Me MISTER multicampus collaborative cohort model in the country. Colorado colleges and universities will have the opportunity to offer the program to their student bodies.
Launched in 2000 at Clemson University and Historically Black Colleges and Universities Morris College, Claflin University and Benedict College, Call Me MISTER now spans 12 states and includes over 40 cohorts and over 500 certified MISTERs.
Anderson said he is often asked how the program will recruit MISTERs in an area with so few African Americans compared with South Carolina.
“What others see as a challenge, I see as possibility,” he said. “It’s going be a movement, and it’s going to be something powerful to see.”
All three MISTERs at MSU Denver believe in using immersive learning to make a positive impact on the lives of the college and K-12 students they mentor. They will visit Green Valley Elementary School every week this academic year through a partnership with Denver Public Schools.
The MISTERs take an outside-the-box approach to reach students.
“When they are so immersed in the lesson that it doesn’t even feel like learning, that’s when I know I’ve done my job,” said Puch, a senior studying Elementary Education. “I believe I cannot teach you until I reach you. I want them to know I care and build the foundation of trust first.”
During a visit to Denver for an education conference earlier this year, a group of Black male students attending the conference said they never had a Black male teacher, which struck a chord for Anderson and the MISTERs.
An essential part of their mission is to expose young students of color to educators who look like them, especially Black male students. Just 1.3% of public-school teachers were Black men in the 2020-21 school year, according to the National Teacher and Principal Survey. That same year, white women made up 61% of public-school teachers.
“We knew the need for Black male teachers and role models long before we knew about the Call Me MISTER program,” said Elizabeth Hinde, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education at MSU Denver.
“This program will not only prepare great teachers; it will revolutionize education,” she said. “And in order to do that, we need diversity; we need leaders. And that’s what Call Me MISTER does: cultivate leaders and changes the face of education.”