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Detroit college promotes African-American men as educators

Graphic October 13, 1998
Web posted at: 9:57 p.m. EDT (0157 GMT)

From Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten

DETROIT (CNN) -- Take a good look at your child's teachers -- they're a diminishing commodity. Low pay and uncertain classroom conditions are discouraging college students from becoming teachers.

And there's an acute shortage of one particular type of teacher -- African-American men. But in Detroit, the city is taking steps to change that.

Lt. John Anderson has been a cop with the Detroit Police Department for 25 years. But soon he'll give up fighting crime for a life in the classroom.

"I have a love for children," Anderson said. "I like working with them. I like mentoring young men and my next profession I selected teaching."

At Marygrove College in Detroit, Anderson and about two dozen other African-American men are making the transformation from cop, accountant and lawyer to teacher.

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CNN's Ed Garsten shows us how Detroit is trying to solve the problem
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"African-American males are where we are shortest," said Kathleen Smith, Assistant Superintendent of the Detroit Public School System.

And it's not just in Detroit, but in school districts throughout the United States.

"Across the country, only 9 percent of teachers are men and only 2 percent of teachers are African-American men," said Marygrove President Glenda Price.

Many in the education field believe African-American teachers are needed urgently to provide positive male role models often not present in urban households.

"In large urban settings, the majority of the time you come to school and you get your first nurturing from a male," Smith said.

The program at Marygrove -- known as Griots, a West African word for storytellers -- is designed to make it easier for African-American men to continue working in their current careers while earning their teacher certifications on Friday nights and Saturdays.

They'll have no trouble finding work. In fact, African-American male teachers are such a hot commodity they can almost write their own tickets. Schools districts are vying for them like pro sports free agents.

The Detroit School District is offering everything from assistance with paying off loans to a month's free housing.

"It's a bidding war for almost every candidate," Smith said.

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