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‘Call Me MISTER’ holds orientation, begins second cohort at WCU

By Geoff Cantrell
call me mister

From left to right, Call Me MISTER's Montgomery Moore, Anthony Freeman and Andrue Smith, with Kyle Baldwin.

An instrumental program for educating future K-12 teachers while more accurately reflecting real world demographics began its second year at Western Carolina University on Friday, July 22.

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. The program originated at Clemson in 2000 and is now featured at 16 other colleges and universities in South Carolina and in 10 states. WCU is the only institution in North Carolina to offer the program.

Kyle Baldwin was an early participant at Claflin in 2001 and was keynote speaker for this year’s kickoff, held at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching in Cullowhee. He now teaches fourth grade at Chattahoochee Middle School in Duluth, Georgia.

“The camaraderie that I got to build with the other MISTERS, the servant leader principles and other principles that were taught to us by those in leadership, were crucial,” said Baldwin. “It helped us be prepared to make a difference in the lives of all students, not just those of color, but all backgrounds, which is so important. Think how unfair it is for a non-black student to never having any exposure to a black male other than on the news, or at a basketball game or a concert.”

Some of the requirements to be a MISTER include pursuing a degree in elementary, inclusive or middle grades education, or music, art or health and physical education with an elementary or middle grades focus; attending all scheduled seminars and activities; and upon graduation, teaching one year in an elementary or middle school for each year they received funds from the program.

“This is an important initiative here at Western,” said Richard Starnes, provost, in opening remarks. “Since 1889, Western Carolina University has dedicated itself to education. Educating students, certainly, but most importantly, educating those who educate. It is an ethic we still embrace.”

Teachers in K-12 are predominantly female and white.

“Call Me MISTER is the beginning of our efforts in the College of Education and Allied Professions to support and involve minority men of color who will serve and lead in the field of education,” said Charmion Rush, WCU’s program director. “As the nation continues to face a critical shortage of educators and the longstanding commitment to ensure our teachers have the resources, knowledge and skills and the ability to meet the need of all our students. We need to provide a pipeline of educators that will reflect the diversity of our classrooms and provide positive outcomes for the whole of the community.”

Freshman Anthony Freeman is the newest member of the program, joining last year’s initial cohort of Montgomery Moore and Andrue Smith.

Rush said the program helps eliminate systemic barriers that hinder potential teachers, especially men of color, from being successful. Each participating MISTER receives:

  • Financial support for tuition and fees
  • Laptops and software
  • An academic support system
  • A living and learning community cohort model for social and cultural support
  • A mentorship program to support leadership development and personal growth
  • Professional development and career support
  • Community engagement opportunities, including summer internships

WCU looks to add three to five participants from racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds each year. For more information on the Call Me MISTER program, contact Rush at

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