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3 Black men challenging status quo on education as less than 1% of teachers in Indiana are Black

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dr. Jeremy Coleman, Dr. Brian Dinkins and Dr. Jason Smith, all educators in Indianapolis, took their brotherhood that started out at Arlington High School and turned into a career mission to open the door for students and teachers of color.

And they did it while earning doctorate degrees in educational leadership from Ball State University.

“You can’t be what you can’t see, right?” Coleman, a Warren Township administrator, said. “There’s a cultural capital that you have and we fill it every single day. There are conversations I can have with students, teachers and parents because of what I bring, because of my background, because of my culture.”

According to the Indiana Department of Education, 3,173 of the 75,174 teachers across the state are Black. Out of those who are Black, only 888 are males.

“Black boys are the most expelled, suspended and incarcerated by demographic percentage wise, [compared to] any other subgroup in our nation,” Dinkins, an Indianapolis Public Schools administrator, said. “And so, if you think about a schooling experience for a Black male, why would they want to be a teacher, right? When 70% plus of the teacher population is white.”

The three educators say their teachers at Arlington High School and throughout college inspired them to seek a career in education, which had a invaluable impact on them.

“I had Roosevelt Griffin, my senior year [in economics], [the] only black male teacher. And he saved me in college,” Smith, also a Warren Township administrator, said. “I had to study in his class and he had expectations for me.”

That type of interaction, inspiration and motivation is something Smith says he tries to give to each of his students on a daily basis.

I-Team 8’s Jasmine Minor asked the educators how schools can recruit more teachers of color. Dinkins says it starts by changing the narrative. He explained that often the education industry can be written off as one that doesn’t pay well, but he says that’s not always the case and there’s plenty opportunity for success.

“That narrative has to change that I can be a successful father [and] husband to my children, be an educator, be a school leader and still live a good life and give back to my community,” Dinkins said.

On Tuesday, IPS announced a new initiative to recruit more diverse, highly qualified teachers by raising pay and offering both a teacher apprenticeship and a principal residency program.

“So statewide, roughly 10% of teacher candidates coming out of the teacher prep program identify as a person of color,” Alex Moseman, IPS’ director of talent acquisition, said. “We need to make sure that when we rebuild this, it doesn’t look the same. We need to make something that is new and different.” 

Moseman says in order for Indianapolis to match the percentage of students of color to the percentage of teachers of color, there would need to be at least 4,000 more teachers of color.

“If your why isn’t strong enough, you won’t make it. You won’t persist,” Coleman said. “‘Why’ is important to us. It’s a personal thing. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s big and it’s powerful.”

They all admit the job is difficult, but the lasting impact it leaves is priceless.

“I just can’t think of another career where you get to go and pour into a group of young people,” Smith said. “It’s a profession that saves lives.” 

Applications for IPS’ IndyTeach apprenticeship and the IPS principal residency are now open.

Click on the video to watch the full interview with I-Team 8’s Jasmine Minor.