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USC Upstate is launching a program aimed at recruiting and training African American men to teach in local schools.
The Call Me MISTER program was started by Clemson University in 2000 and has produced more than 240 teachers across South Carolina.
“The collaboration with USC Upstate greatly strengthens our support and options for prospective students in the region,” said Dr. Roy Jones, director of Call Me MISTER at Clemson University. “We are very excited about the potential success of this collaborative relationship.”
"MISTER" stands for Mentors Instructing Students Towards Effect Role-models.
"Call me MISTER is really about showing people that lives can be changed through an educational experience,” said Dr. Walter Lee, Assistant Professor and Call Me MISTER Coordinator at USC Upstate.
Dr. Lee went through the program himself at Claflin University.
“I knew that I wanted to teach but did not exactly know why,” said Dr. Lee, adding the program helped him answer that question. “Weekly meetings, we also attend community events, volunteer at local schools.”
Now he helps other students as he works to recruit and train African American teachers at USC Upstate.
“I was a teacher. Now I'm teaching teachers,” he said.
The program aims to recruit and prepare African American male students to teach in early childhood, elementary, and middle school classrooms.
“We see that we need an increase number of male teachers, particularly males of color in order to represent our population,” said USC Upstate Dean of the School of Education Human Performance and Health Dr. Laura Reynolds. “During the time of a teacher shortage one of the things we look at are specific targeted areas in which we want to enhance our production of teachers.”
She said students from Spartanburg District 7 or Spartanburg Community College can apply to the program and get financial help for bachelor's degrees and teacher certifications.
Those students will then go back to the local classrooms they once sat in as teachers, mentors, and role models.
“Once you pull these males from underserved communities, they're able to come back and challenge intergenerational poverty. They're able to challenge the school to prison pipeline. They're able to challenge self-concept and self-definition,” said Dr. Lee. “Students can see themselves and their future in the people who are standing in front of them. Once you show that change can happen in the lives of people that come from these communities, and place them back in those communities, so that they can relate, that's when education happens.”
Anyone interested in the Call Me MISTER program should contact the School of Education, Human Performance, and Health at 864-503-5733 or visit: https://www.uscupstate.edu/academics/school-of-education/