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Memphis school system pushes to recruit more male teachers of color

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – After losing his father at 14, James Gordon found comfort and father figures in school.

Gordon, now an elementary school principal in Memphis, can easily rattle off the names of the African-American male educators he had in middle and high school, many of whom he still speaks with.

As a student, he said, they were his beacons of light.

“I want to provide students with the experience that mirrored mine,” Gordon said.

The influence is apparent at Hickory Ridge Elementary School, where Gordon is the principal. The school has one of the highest percentages of African-American male educators in the district. Of the 45 educators and support staff at Hickory Ridge, 12 are men, and eight are men of color, Gordon said.

Representation matters. Nationally, about 2% of educators are African-American males, but research shows that for black boys in particular, having a teacher of the same race is correlated with a greater likelihood of college attendance. Same-race teachers also have positive effects on student behavior.

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