Watch CBS News

Growing need for Black male teachers in Bay Area classrooms

Growing need for Black male teachers in Bay Area classrooms
Growing need for Black male teachers in Bay Area classrooms 03:35

SAN FRANCISCO -- Although some students have already started summer break or they will be soon, there are still some assignments public school districts may want to complete.   

The most recent California Department of Education data reveals roughly 3.9% of public-school teachers in California are Black. Meanwhile, Black students make up about 5.4% of enrollment 

CBS News Bay Area took the findings a step further and the numbers sank even lower, for Black male teachers in the state. They make up only 1.2 percent of public-school teachers. 

Equity in Education: SFUSD's D'Andre Ball on district's program to recruit and retain Black male tea 03:17

"A lot of parents say this is their child's first Black teacher. And I'm like what?," said Vernon Johnson, a math teacher at KIPP San Francisco College Prep.  

Johnson has been at KIPP for almost three years, but he's been teaching for nearly 16 years.  

"[Students] see that you're Black and they're like ok, that's kind of cool," said Johnson. "He's a math teacher, ok that's different. I don't really like math, but I like him." 

Johnson grew up in Detroit where most of his teachers looked like him. However, that's not reality for his students. Johnson is one of three Black male teachers at KIPP.  

Knowing they're underrepresented, Johnson says he works hard to build bonds with every single one of his students, but bonds with Black and Brown students seem to be naturally stronger.  

"The bonding is critical," Johnson said.  "If they don't like you, they're not going to do any work whatsoever. So, you have to build that bond with them."   

High school junior Darien Warren will never forget that bond.   

"It felt like I could finally be represented and understand who I can be," Warren said. "We don't have many people of color or men of color representing us. So to have somebody be my educator it really helps me. " 

Darien said he's been more successful academically and athletically because of Johnson and other Black male teachers. Warren feels like he can connect with them even outside of the classroom.  

"He's a really supportive teacher," Warren said. "If anybody needed help, he would help. We worked well together i feel like he has a great chemistry with a lot of his students, including me." 

Research from Johns-Hopkins University supports Darien. It finds when students share the same ethnicity with teachers – students are more likely to enroll in college. Other studies suggest it also enhances skills beyond school doors.  

"Giving them a good role model, giving them a success road," Johnson said. "Even if they don't want to be a teacher, they can still major in science, they can be professional. Not only [a role model] for the Black kids, but for people of color in general, the LatinX. They love me. They come to me, they talk to me they tell me all their issues."  

Some school districts are adopting teacher pipeline programs that were designed to specifically target potential Black teachers while also making efforts to retain the teachers they have.  

"It's not numbers, it's more like being able to solve problems," Johnson said.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.