Bobby Morgan still remembers it like it was yesterday.
He said his sixth-grade teacher told his parents he “did not belong” in honors classes. And those words stuck with him throughout high school and college.
He said he believed school wasn’t for him for most of his childhood.
Morgan, 37, was raised in Pemberton, New Jersey, and attended local public schools.
Most of his teachers were white, with the exception of two women of color in elementary school. He said it may have made a difference if he had Black men role models in education, especially because, outside of class, he dealt with issues that he had no control over.
According to Education Week, only 2 % of teachers in America are Black men, despite most of America’s students being youth of color (teaching is a woman-dominated profession).
New Jersey Department of Education data shows that children of color make up 59% of the state’s student body. However, teachers of color only make up 17% of the teacher workforce.
It ultimately inspired him to return home to become a math teacher before transferring to Joyce Kilmer Elementary School in Trenton.
He said it’s his “calling.”
“I never thought I belonged. And only through doing a lot of inner work and understanding who I am and understanding the history of resilience and genius in Black and Brown people was I able to combat that,” Morgan said. “And I want to do the same for every single student who comes to my classroom.”
New program aims to bridge the gap
This week, the New Jersey Department of Education announced a program in collaboration with Rowan University to recruit more men of color for teaching jobs, especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Men Of Color Achievers Program, or MOCHA, was first introduced in January 2018 through legislation sponsored by newly appointed Senate majority leader Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) and majority whip Sen. Troy Singleton (D-7).
The Department of Education will fund a $475,000 grant that Rowan University is expected to use to “focus on recruiting, preparing, supporting and retaining males of color to earn certification through an alternate route program,” the university said on Wednesday.
Rowan University said the program would mainly target South and Central New Jersey schools.