Martin Luther King High School All Black 9 th Grade Male Teachers

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony

September 22, 2022

by Lynda Rubin

I am a retired K-8 school counselor. Public schools have always been as much about helping children grow, learning to cope, feel safe and gain self-confidence as academics. Children remember their school years and their “favorite” teachers and staff with whom they bonded. That’s why kids come back and visit, hopefully to find the same staff who influenced them over
the years, cared about them, even the ones they argued with, and to show themselves off to us.

When I read about the new plan at Martin Luther King High School to provide all 9 th graders with African-American male teachers for their core subjects, I just smiled. Kudos to the teachers themselves who know and recruited each other and to Principal Keisha Williams for making it happen.

I think this is an inspired idea, especially for 9 th graders entering high school, which can be intimidating . Our students, especially our inner city African-American boys, need to interact and bond with male teachers who look like them and who have the unique similar background experiences as them. Students could have a close-knit family with a caring father in the home
and still gain important insights into growing up in the world from Black male teachers who bring non-family respect for what they need to succeed in the world.

While I’m at it, I want to commend other Black men who are choosing to teach in the classroom, for the same reasons. I’m thinking of Tamir Harper, who I know you know and who happened to have been my student for a few years.

I look forward to seeing an increase of Black male teachers in our schools supporting our African American youth and each other and providing a model for non-Black youth.

I also wanted to ask about the progress with hiring Bus Aides on all buses. Our students deserve to be supervised and supported to and from school as well as in school since experiences on buses and inside schools flow into each other. Traveling to and from schools, whether walking or riding a bus, is a lesson in a child’s feeling capable and secure in itself – or not.