By Benny Smith
Western Carolina University has tripled its cohort of Call Me MiSTER program participants, bringing in six new members who will start their four-year journey to becoming a teacher this fall.
Call Me MiSTER, an acronym for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models, aims to increase the pool of available male teachers of color in the country’s classrooms. In 2000, Clemson University was the founding institution for the MiSTER program, serving students attending three HBCUs, Claflin University, Benedict, and Morris College. The Call Me MiSTER Network now consists of 28 partner institutions in South Carolina, which are two- and four-year institutions. In addition, the program has expanded to 11 states outside of South Carolina, 18 are four-year institutions.
WCU is the only institution in North Carolina and the 10th state to offer the Call Me MiSTER program as part of the College of Education and Allied Professions. The six students entering this year’s cohort are Ellie Barber, Jaylon Brown, Antonio Lopez, Thomas McDowell, Isaiah Smith and Gabriel Wooten.
“I’m so proud of how much this program has grown in such a short amount of time,” WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown told the students and their parents at a recent orientation event. “As you know, it takes a special person to become a teacher and you are one of those special people.”
Some of the requirements to be a MISTER include pursuing a degree in teacher education. This year’s cohort will serve as future teachers in the areas of elementary, inclusive, middle grades education, music, art, as well as health and physical education. In addition, MiSTERS will attend all scheduled seminars and participate in a summer internship and extended field experiences throughout the year. Upon graduation, MiSTERS are expected to “pay it forward” by for each year they received scholarship funds from the program.
Roy Jones, founder and executive director of Call Me MiSTER at Clemson, told WCU’s new cohort that educators can bring impact to their classrooms and communities.
“We want to build educators because we believe educators have answers that a lot of people don’t have to addressing some of the crises, we face surrounding us today,” Jones said.
WCU program director, Charmion Rush, said the program helps eliminate systemic barriers that hinder potential teachers entering the workforce, especially men of color, from being successful. Each participating MiSTER receives a $5,000 scholarship along with laptops and software, an academic support system, and professional development and career support.
“I’m ecstatic and proud that we have a really good diverse group of future educators this year,” Rush said. “When they met at orientation, I felt they immediately bonded as cohort members. WCU has a strong academic support system to guide them during their four years here. Everything they need to be successful, from exceling in classes and teacher examinations, is available.”
All MiSTERS live together in the same residence hall which operates as a learning community cohort model for social and cultural support.
Senior Andrue Smith said the program has really helped him while at WCU. “Since I started this program its taught me how to build better relationships and enhance my communication with people,” Smith said. “This program has also helped me to stay focus and on task because I know I lot of people are looking at me and I don’t want to fail in front of people.”
The Easley, South Carolina native said he started out wanting to be a guidance counselor and then switched to teaching. He said WCU’s culture supports his road to success as a teacher.
“Smaller class sizes and the family environment you feel when you get on campus has really helped me,” Smith said.
After performing a summer internship with Asheville City Schools, Smith said he is looking forward to student teaching this year.
For more information on the Call Me MiSTER program, contact Rush at firstname.lastname@example.org.