Otis Kitchen Black Men in Education Spotlight
I was in fourth grade when I had my first Black male teacher. Mr. Mebane did things a little bit differently. He took us outside every day, connected with us over sports and made it clear that his expectations for us included high academic achievement. As a young Black student-athlete, my connection with Mr. Mebane awakened my excitement about school. He made me feel brilliant and changed my outlook on what I could achieve.
Fourth grade was also the first year I made the honor roll. Of course, that was no coincidence. As a Black student, having a Black male educator gave me the chance to see a version of success that I could identify with. Every day, I learned from this teacher who looked like me, and I aspired to become like him. Every single day, I deepened my relationship with a role model - and it is hard to overstate the power of that. Now, I am an elementary school principal myself. Looking back, I can clearly chart the path from Mr. Mebane's impact on where I am today.
Now, in my own community, I am involved in mentorships and relationship-building with other Black male educators. I am passionate about this type of outreach. Four years ago, when I saw that the Center for Black Educator Development was holding their second national Black Men in Education Convening (BMEC), the mission resonated with me, and I jumped at the chance to attend. I paid my own way to the conference that year, and I had the opportunity to connect with Sharif El-Mekki and so many like-minded Black leaders who also believe in the importance of Black men role models in schools. That was four years ago, and I continue to direct Black men educators toward BMEC.
I feel called to do my part to draw more Black educators into the teaching profession and support them so that they want to stay. I have seen the difference Black men educators make for all students, like Mr. Mebane did for me. Recently, I was blessed to reconnect with Mr. Mebane. I had the opportunity to sit down with him and express the positive impact he has had on my life, and it felt truly amazing to share how even now, as I connect with students, I am following in his footsteps.
I believe we are all here on Earth to use our gifts to lift up other people. Nobody makes it in life without support - and as Black men educators, we have the power to uplift both our students and each other.
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