Education

Why HBCU Graduates Make Such Great Teachers


According to a new study released by DonorsChoose, Black male teachers spend more time with students outside the classroom than teachers of any other racial demographic. In addition, the study found that Historically Black College and University (HBCU) graduates account for some of the most dedicated teachers. They spend over 5 hours per week on tutoring outside the classroom and 6 hours per week on mentoring, compared to 4 hours a week each, on the part of Black teachers who did not graduate from HBCUs. Moreover, Black HBCU graduates reported an average of 18 students hanging out in their classrooms outside of regular class hours, compared to 11 students for Black teachers who did not graduate from HBCUs.

HBCUs produce 50% of Black teachers. From the perspective of DonorsChoose CEO Alix Guerrier, more schools should be looking to HBCUs when they are recruiting teachers, especially if they want to better serve all of their students. Guerrier’s organization conducted the study with the goal of elevating the voices of Black male educators and to foster more work related to recruiting, retaining, and supporting these teachers. As he shared, Black male teachers are working hard and are “feeling this pressure to shoulder additional responsibilities.” They need support.

Guerrier knows how this pressure plays out first hand. Although he started college “100% focused on becoming a physicist,” his experience volunteering at an after-school program introduced him to his love for education and his life was forever changed. Guerrier realized how much he enjoyed working with kids, as well as his passion for kids and their families “feeling seen for what they contribute to the classroom environment.”

As Guerrier recalls, “When I was a teacher, I definitely felt certain responsibilities because of my race — most of them self-imposed and some of them systemically imposed. It was important to look out for my Black students in particular.” He added, “I also felt the desire to code-switch or represent myself in a way that would maintain the image of an academically successful Black person.” Guerrier was aware that he was surrounded by exceptional colleagues. However, as he shared, “the educational system is structured to underestimate Black children, as well as Black teachers.”

Although Guerrier did not attend an HBCU, he believes that the strong study results related to HBCU graduates are linked to the HBCU environment and what it offers students. As he shared, “I can imagine how empowering it feels to attend an HBCU,

where your identity as a Black student is affirmed by your professors and fellow classmates. I’d expect this experience to inspire a teacher-to-be to would want to affirm the identities of their students once they enter the K-12 classroom.” Guerrier also shared the Black men represented in the DonorsChoose report, who graduated from HBCUs, entered the teaching profession expressly because they wanted to affirm the identities of Black students.

The DonorsChoose study also found that Black male teachers are experiencing heightened stress in the current racial climate. Guerrier warns that it is essential to provide these teachers with additional resources and support, and that “we must acknowledge the ‘invisible tax’” that John King, the U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration, has referred to in his work. Guerrier suggests that school districts financially support after-school programs and community engagement opportunities that uplift Black teachers as well as their students, and that contribute to an affirming environment — one that Guerrier equates to the environment that is common at HBCUs.

Creating affirming opportunities for Black teachers is not only positive for them as individuals, it benefits their students immensely, and society overall. For example, a 2020 study by Constance Lindsay demonstrated that the graduation rate among Black students increased by 33% if they had at least one Black teacher between third and fifth grade — highly formative years for children. According to Guerrier, an investment in HBCU-trained teachers is an investment in African American children, which, in turn, is an investment in the future of the nation.



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