NewsPinellas County


USF brings 'Call Me MISTER' program to St. Pete to increase teacher diversity

Posted at 8:03 AM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 08:25:23-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The University of South Florida and Pinellas County Schools are teaming up to bring the Call Me MISTER program to the Bay Area.

“Call Me MISTER is important for children of color,” said Brenda L. Walker, Interim Associate Dean of The College of Education at USF St. Petersburg.

MISTER stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.

The initiative was started at Clemson University to increase the number of male teachers of color in schools.

“The teaching field has a dire under representation of men of color. When we talk about African American men, there’s a 2% rate of African American men who are teachers,” said Walker.

The program places male teachers of color, particularly Black males, in local elementary schools, usually those with populations of poor or at-risk students, at schools that are considered low performing.

This effort will start at the USF St. Petersburg campus. They plan to have their first chapter of men who will go through the program and agree to serve in local urban schools.

Program leaders also hope to expand this to USF campuses in Tampa, Manatee County, and Sarasota County.

“It’s really important that students of all races white, Asian, Native American, that other students have the benefit of having African-American and other males of color at the head of the classroom,” said Walker.

She says at USF St. Pete, they will provide the MISTERs with a collaborative network of partners and resources. They’re setting up a plan with the Advancement Office to come up with funds to help with tuition and books. The school is also putting together academic, social, and emotional support.

Pinellas County Schools says it has been focusing on diversity for many years, and will help with recruiting for the Call Me MISTER program.

They’re seeking out potential Black male educators or students coming out of high school that are interested in teaching.

“Our goal has always been to make sure that our teaching workforce and our demographics of our teachers in our schools, match our student population. This is a perfect program to assist with that and to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that our teacher workforce is evident of students, and our students with our schools to see the variety of diversity in our teacher workforce,” said Paula Texel, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Services at Pinellas County Schools.

The males who complete the program are guaranteed teaching positions within the Pinellas County School District.

Walker says studies show that Black male students are less likely to drop out of school if they have just one Black male teacher.

“One of the reasons Call Me MISTER is so important is because it addresses those kinds of issues. The retention rate of teachers of color in our public schools around the country, not just in our region, but around the country is really poor,” said Walker.

Their goal is to start this program in the fall.

Right now they’re in the planning process and looking for students and teachers who may be interested.