EMU College of Education senior to boldly go where few black men have gone before
By Linda Hass | Published February 10, 2015
Brandon Britt, a senior in Eastern Michigan University's College of Education, is preparing to go where few black men have gone before—into the field of education. "Black male teachers are greatly needed because they're so underrepresented," says Britt, on track to receive a bachelor's in elementary education with an emphasis on mathematics.
Statistics support his claim. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 82 percent of public school teachers—male or female—were white during the 2011-12 school year. Black males are especially rare, representing less than 2 percent of our country's teachers.
Britt is undeterred by the odds. "Eastern has put me on a trajectory to make a difference. The College of Education equipped me academically; professors have supported me emotionally; extra-curricular activities have expanded my horizons socially; and this semester is preparing me experientially," says Britt, a student teacher to third graders at Estabrook Elementary School, Ypsilanti. "My goal is to take all those skills and go where they are needed most—in the inner urban areas."
The 21-year-old knows what he is talking about—he was born and raised in what he describes as an "inner urban area." "I can never forget where I came from. The odds were against me making it this far," says the Flint native. "My mom raised me alone, and she worked outside the home. It was up to me to get my homework done and manage my time wisely," he says, adding that his mother and grandmother were vital sources of encouragement.
Britt excelled in school, and when a peer turned to him for help, Britt found his calling. "I ended up pushing him and encouraging him to go to class and do his homework. To this day, he claims I'm the reason he graduated from high school. I want to multiply that experience as a teacher; to inspire students to stay in school and be the best they can be," he says. "I've seen first-hand the difference that encouragement can make."
He also credits Eastern Michigan University faculty and staff with generous doses of encouragement. "Eastern's College of Education has the most dedicated faculty and staff I've ever seen. You're not just a number here. They go above and beyond to support you."
There were times Britt greatly needed that support. "Some of my education classes were all female—except for me. Talk about standing out!" he says. According to Education Department data, more than three-quarters of all teachers in kindergarten through high school are women. The disparity is most pronounced in elementary school—Britt's area—where more than 80 percent of teachers are women.
"A few times, I wanted to quit, but people like Dr. Stokes Jones and Mr. Barnes were always there for me," he says.
Toni Stokes Jones, professor and co-graduate coordinator, educational media and technology, department of teacher education, says she's glad Britt stuck with it. "Brandon will make a great elementary school teacher. He has a wonderful capacity for inspiring others.
"He's also willing to pursue his dreams. When Brandon developed the idea for his McNair Project—retention of African-American males at predominantly white academic institutions of higher learning—he enthusiastically established focus groups, collected data and attended conferences. He's a highly motivated young man," adds Stokes Jones, who has served as Britt's McNair Scholars mentor for several years.
Reginald Barnes, director, Diversity and Community Involvement, was equally complimentary. "Brandon is a compassionate individual who goes out of his way to help those in need," says Barnes. "He is a perfect mentor for first-generation college students because he knows how it feels to navigate a complex environment."
As Britt became more comfortable with his surroundings, he began sinking his roots deep into the Green and White and participating in several extra-curricular activities. He is the former president of the Black Student Union; he has served on the campus Martin Luther King committee for four years and he was a resident assistant, to name a few involvements.
"These activities not only helped me to feel connected, they supplemented my education and expanded my horizons," says the senior.
Britt's horizons will expand even further after graduation this spring. He plans to tour universities in several states in pursuit of a graduate degree in education. His ultimate goal is to not only teach in a public elementary school, but to make a positive difference in the lives of students who need it most.
"Many black students grow up without a role model to motivate them to be successful," says Britt. "I want to be that model."
To make a difference in the lives of future elementary education students, donate to the Elementary Education Program Fund, or contact Christa Reid, Director of Development for the College of Education at [email protected].
- For 82% figure, see the Feb. 2014 edition of "Education Week" (5th paragraph down): For 2% figure, visit the official blog of the Department of Education (2nd to last paragraph). The 2% figure is also noted in Education Week (3rd paragraph down).
- For stats on the preponderance of female teachers, read The New York Times' story, "Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?".