(FOX 9) - A local nonprofit is on a mission to get more Black men into Minnesota classrooms.
"Black Men Teach" is molding the next generation of elementary school teachers, and organizers say a partnership with a major Minnesota foods manufacturer has been paramount to their success.
Markus Flynn is the executive director of Black Men Teach, a nonprofit for Black men who aspire to become elementary school educators.
"Our mission is to recruit, prepare, place, and retain Black male elementary school teachers," said Flynn in an interview with FOX 9.
In the U.S., it's estimated that only 2% of teachers are Black men. In the state of Minnesota, there are fewer than that.
"Across the state of Minnesota, what you’ll see is that Black men make up less than half of one percent of the teaching workforce, so Black men are almost non-existent," said Flynn.
This is in a state where Flynn says over a third of students are students of color.
"There’s data out there right now that tells you, if students, particularly Black students, have someone who looks like them, they do better," said Flynn.
Launched in 2018, the nonprofit fellowship program provides scholarships and student loan forgiveness. In 2021, they partnered with General Mills through its Box Tops for Education program. Box Tops has committed to giving Black Men Teach $500,000 over the course of four years.
"The growth that we’ve had, the ability to maintain our teachers, the fact that we have 100% retention rate right now, a lot of that is due to the fact that box tops was so foundational," said Flynn.
"We have been so thrilled to see this organization grow," said Lilly Moeding, an executive with Box Tops. During a Zoom interview with FOX 9, Moeding said the investment is about making a broader commitment to racial equity. "We know that Minnesota has some of the largest disparities. Educational disparities in the nation," she said.
According to the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, in the 2019-2020 school year, 32 Black men were teaching in an elementary school.
That number rose to 35 teachers in the 2022-2023 school year. Flynn says that there are 70 men in the program right now.
"I think what I hope for long-term is that we're able to have, like real impact," said Flynn.
Box Tops recently made its third payout of $125,000 for the upcoming school year. In addition to seeking aspiring educators, Black Men Teach is hiring for a number of positions. To learn more, visit their website here.