Men can teach, too

4/20/2023, 6 p.m.
Anyone who’s been inside a public school knows there aren’t large numbers of male teachers in classrooms. In fact, male ...

Anyone who’s been inside a public school knows there aren’t large numbers of male teachers in classrooms. In fact, male minority teachers make up less than 5 percent of all educators in the country, according to recent data. In 2020, Richmond Public Schools created a program called RVA Men Teach to address this disparity, retain and recruit male minority teachers and highlight them as educational experts and eliminate barriers that keep them out of classrooms.

On Saturday, April 15, the first RVA Men Teach Conference took place at Huguenot High School. Panel discussions, a hiring fair and CPR training were among the offerings to the approximately 100 people in attendance.

“We created the RVA Men Teach program with the understanding of the effects of the ‘invisible tax’ on male minority teachers,” said Rodney A. Robinson, 2019 National Teacher of the Year and organizer of the conference. “Our hope is that by providing support, recognition, and opportunities for growth, we can increase the number of male minority teachers here at RPS and improve the educational experience and academic outcomes of all students.”

Panel discussion participants included older men that the younger men can look up to as role mentors and role models: Mayor Levar M. Stoney, state Sen. Lamont Bagby, Virginia State University Dean Walter Willis, Virginia Humanities Director Yahusef Medina and former school principal Frank Scott.

Mr. Robinson led a discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on students and educators with two former Virginia Teachers of the Year (Toney McNair and Anthony Swann) and two Milken Educator Award winners (Ryan James and Ryan Sykes). Other breakout sessions led by RPS educators, leaders and support staff discussed advocacy, engagement, literacy and higher education.

The effort to increase Black male teachers in schools wasn’t lost on students at the riveting sessions.

“Seeing someone who looks like me in a position of authority and leadership has helped me realize my own potential and believe that I can achieve anything I set my mind to,” said Delonte Liggins-Johnson, a senior at Armstrong High School and panel member.

The RVA Men Teach program also presented the first RVA Men Teach Male Minority Teacher of the Year Award to Philip Canady, a teacher at Fairfield Court Elementary School, who was named the 2022 Fairfield Court Teacher of the Year.

Well done.