THREE ON THE FIRST COAST
America's growing teacher-gender gap extends to the First Coast, where there's a scarcity of men in elementary and secondary classrooms. Three area teachers tell what it's like to be among the few men in teaching in our schools:
Sadie T. Tillis Elementary, Orange Park
As the only male teacher at my school, I feel a certain responsibility to every student who comes through the doors of Sadie T. Tillis Elementary. I agree with Mr. Warren's point (in accompanying story) on establishing boundaries with male students, because many of the male students I have encountered have lacked strong male influences in their life.
The relationship I garner rivals that of a father/son relationship because of the trust, attention and passion that must go into being a successful teacher, but students must understand our purpose as teachers is set on providing permanent knowledge rather than moving permanently into their lives. The impression I make on them as a young black male educator and role model is the main permanent fixture I aim at being in their lives.
For many of my students, male or female, black or otherwise, I may be the only black male teacher they will ever have. I have only had three in my lifetime, and each one made me want to become a better man and pushed me to believe I could be as successful as my mind allowed. I have been blessed to be awarded the opportunity to teach by the Teach For America program, which believes as I do: Every child deserves a chance at a quality education. That is the mission I enter my classroom with every day, providing the highest quality education for all of my students and instilling principles of discipline and chivalry into each of my young gentleman.
Mayport Middle School
"You're not wearing a tuxedo."
A student made this comment when I arrived in the Media Center in a long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. Although I had taken a sick day for a medical appointment, I stopped by the school to take care of some business.
The student's comment made me laugh because she was used to seeing me in more formal clothing. No, work is not a black-tie affair for me. I do, however, make good use of the 60-something neckties that hang in my closet.
From my first day as a substitute teacher, I made it a point to wear a shirt and tie to work every day. This was especially important when I was in my late twenties and was often stopped and asked by teachers if I had a hall pass - pretty much the equivalent of getting carded at the store. …