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Keynote speaker offers new model for preparing teachers

Roy Jones getting to know a MISTER student.
Roy Jones getting to know a MISTER student.
the MISTER Initiative.

In his October 12 keynote address at the Social Justice Symposium at St. Catherine University, Dr. Roy Jones will not talk about a program to create better teachers. Instead, he’ll outline a transformative way to view education.

“Call Me MISTER is not just a program. We’ve created a philosophical framework over and above even student achievement in quantitative terms,” Jones says. “Our primary target is black males, but if a MISTER doesn’t leave us with the ability to go into a classroom and be successful with any student demographic, we’ve failed.”

Jones is executive director for the Eugene T. Moore School of Education’s Call Me MISTER Initiative at Clemson University in South Carolina. The mission of Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role-models) is to increase the pool of available teachers from broader, more diverse backgrounds.

Across the country, nearly half of male students of color drop out of school before they graduate. Call Me MISTER focuses on recruiting black males from socio-economically disadvantaged and educationally at-risk communities. Graduates from the program, who are known as MISTERs, are placed as teachers in schools similar to those from which they were recruited.

The Call Me MISTER initiative celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2010. Since 2004, 60 MISTERs have graduated and are now teaching in South Carolina schools. These graduates represent a 25 percent increase of the African American male elementary teachers in the state.

Mentoring, Not Role Modeling
While its focus is on black males, the Call Me MISTER program is not an isolated model for reaching only one student population. As Jones explains, a foundational philosophy of Call Me MISTER is that an individual doesn’t have to be something or somebody else to be great.

“Every individual has talents, attributes and virtues of themselves that are uniquely theirs,” he says. “What we do is help them to figure out what it is that’s uniquely theirs.” This emphasis on discovering the potential in each participant in Call Me MISTER underscores the program’s focus on servant leadership and mentoring as a mindset for teachers.

“When you’re a role model for kids, you say ‘Look at me; follow me and be like me,’” Jones explains. The role of a mentor, in contrast, is to develop relationships to draw out what’s hidden. The goal is to find what’s inside each student that can make him or her uniquely successful and positioned to empower others.

Effective People Become Effective Teachers
Students in the Call Me MISTER program are recruited in cohorts of five to seven and then engage in a living and learning community. This cohort model provides social and academic support, and it also helps to frame the experience as a life transformation, not just an education. The emphasis is on developing each individual MISTER into an effective person, not just an effective teacher.

“Within the Call Me MISTER group, we don’t talk about it as a program,” Jones says. “It’s far deeper than that because it addresses the human condition. It’s a lifestyle and a culture.”

Sharing a Transferable Model
“I got excited about this symposium over a year ago,” says Jones of the St. Kate’s 2010 Social Justice Symposium. In the larger context of the increased focus on educational reform in the United States, he is convinced that Call Me MISTER can offer ideas and guidance for a new way of preparing educators to reach all student demographics.

“I believe in our model so strongly, that I think we can take MISTERs into any classroom, and they will succeed,” Jones says. “Our model is transferable, and it is transforming.”

Jones will give the keynote address of St. Kate's 2010 Social Justice Symposium on Tuesday, October 12 at 7 p.m. in the Jeanne d’Arc auditorium inside Whitby Hall on the St. Paul campus.

The two-day symposium will include panel discussions and a film screening. All events are free and open to the public.

For more information, call the Office of Student Affairs at 651-690-6778.

Oct. 25, 2010 by Elizabeth Otto

See also: , Education, Students