Changing the face of education

From left: Montez Myles, Adrian Robinson and Kyrian Freeman

Walk into most public schools across America, and you’ll see an increasingly diverse student population. But that diversity does not yet extend to teachers.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students of color make up about half the public school population, but racial diversity in teachers has not kept up at the same pace. Drill down the demographics even further, and the results are more sobering: just two percent of public school teachers are black males. Diversifying our teacher ranks continues to be a challenge that must be met, especially given studies demonstrating the impact just one black teacher can have on their students.

Three future teachers, trained at the School of Education, will be part of that impact. Kyrian Freeman, Montez Myles and Adrian Robinson make up only a handful of black males who are majoring in education at IU. All three were either participants of the Balfour Scholars Program Pre-College Academy or work with Balfour students as a mentor.

It’s a different feel ... knowing you have a teacher that looks like you. So that’s what I wanted to be, the teacher I never had.

Adrian Robinson

Myles will graduate in May with a job lined up teaching eighth-grade English in Indianapolis. He planned on majoring in business, but realized he wanted to work with young children instead by becoming a teacher, as his mother was.  

“I believe my purpose is not to make students love English/Language Arts. That’s a challenge that may be too far-fetched. However, what I do hope to accomplish is providing engaging, relatable lessons, that help students achieve a strong appreciation for the coursework provided to them,” Myles explained. “In my experience on both sides of the learning environment, I constantly have heard students say ‘When will I use this?’ and rather than saying that they have to do this because the state of Indiana says so, I hope to give them purpose.”

Myles has thought about the impact he may have on his students, not only as their teacher but as a black male in education.

“I don’t believe black men realize the power that they have to inspire and encourage our youth of tomorrow,” he said. “We have a duty to fulfill for our young black men that they may not receive at home, so I encourage all of our black men to take roles in their lives. Whether that is teaching, coaching, counseling or mentoring, be an inspiration.”

It’s something they all thought about: that they may be the only black male teacher their students have someday.

“Having one black male teacher, it’s a different feel, a different type of presence knowing you have a teacher that looks like you,” Robinson said. “So that’s what I wanted to be, the teacher I never had.”

Robinson is a junior who calls education his calling. He plans to teach secondary history, a subject uniquely poised for critical lessons for his students.

“I want [my students] to know about the past so they can create a better future. That’s honestly what I want,” he said. “Everything that’s good about the world today, everything that’s bad is a result of what happened last year and the year before. By learning about that, you learn more about the present and the future.”

Beyond working toward his degree, Robinson is the President of IU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. He is still pondering where his future in education may take him, from high schools to teaching at the collegiate level. Regardless, Robinson said he just wants his students to believe in themselves.

Freeman is a freshman pre-education major who prefers to call himself an educator, instead of a teacher. 

“Teacher to me is I’m teaching a set of rules,” he said. “(Being an educator), I’m giving you the tools. My biggest thing is just to teach you to be critically aware of the society you live in and to analyze it, therefore [my students] don’t assimilate into a broken system.” 

When he was in high school, Freeman hated writing papers and was sure he’d never be an English teacher. But at IU, he realized when he was given the opportunity to write about subjects he was passionate about, he loved it. Now he’s pursuing a degree in English education.  

“My job is to give students the tools to be more conscious of the society they live in, using that to analyze different literary works, different media portrayals of things, just to see the true society that we live in,” he said. “I do it for the impact. Just having one good teacher … they love what they did, and that made me want to do it.”