Guiding light : a qualitative case study to describe what factors prompt African American male educators to teach elementary education and their experiences in this role.


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There are too few African American male teachers in K–8 classrooms. The number of African American teachers (female and male) declined after integrating schools. 1954 Desegregation allowed African American students equal access to quality schools but did not make room for teachers to follow (Hodge et al., 2008). Additionally, the salary and respect level given to teachers in general has impacted the quality of applicants and the diversity of applicants (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2019; Ingersoll & May, 2011). While the number of African American female teachers has increased since the sixties, African American male teachers have not increased as steadily in today’s schools. African American male educators can positively impact all students in K–8 classrooms—especially African American students, who make up nearly half of the students in public education. However, male teachers are typically concentrated in high schools, highlighting the intersectionality between male, African American and K–8 teachers. Little research has been done focusing on the lack of African American male teachers in K–8 classrooms. I conducted a single case study on the experiences that impact African American male teachers in public school settings. Students can learn a lot from different cultures, but they tend to perform better if exposed to teachers who look like them (Fregni, 2019). Additionally, research shows that African American students who have African American teachers are likely to show academic success eventually; if an African American teacher teaches an African American student by third grade, their chances of graduating from high school increase (Fregni, 2019; Graham et al., 2014). Exploring four male teachers’ life experiences sheds light on why African American male teachers choose certification in specific grade levels. The study resulted in three findings that could contribute better understanding why the number of African American male teachers in K–8 classrooms should increase and in what ways to support them. I categorized their experiences into three main categories: mentoring, connecting and building relationships, and otherfathering. Based on these findings, I recommend increasing the number of teacher mentors, the opportunities for professional and financial growth, and the opportunities for teachers to connect.