The power of representation 

Welcoming male teachers of color into education 

By Dr. Angello Villarreal 

New Jersey has been rated first in public education across the country for the last several years. However, we need to acknowledge where we fall short and how it can be influencing our students’ access to equity. One place where we fall short is the number of male teachers, especially male teachers of color. Among all teachers in New Jersey, the presence of male teachers of color is disproportionately low. 

The absence of diverse male role models not only limits the potential of students of color but also deprives all students—and staff—of rich and varied perspectives and experiences. Understanding the power of representation is key to cultivating inclusive learning environments and nurturing the holistic development of students. 

Certified Teachers (2018-2019 SY)  NJDOE Data Report Certified Teachers (2022-2023 SY)  
116,826  Total 116,698  
90,050 77.1% Total Females 90,142 77.2% 
26,776 22.9% Total Males 26,595 22.7% 
Since the middle of the 19th century, women have dominated the teaching profession, particularly at the elementary level. 

While female educators bring invaluable skills, hold key roles and bring important perspectives to education, the lack of male representation, especially men of color, leaves a gap. The importance of having significant numbers of male teachers, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, cannot be overemphasized. Male teachers serve as mentors, advocates and positive role models. This is especially beneficial to young boys of color who often lack relatable figures in academic and educational settings. 

What are the numbers in New Jersey? 

According to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the percentage of high school students graduating in four years in 2021-22 was 90.9%. But it looks very different once this data is broken down by race/ethnicity, where the rate is 95% for white students, and 84.9% for Hispanic students, and 85.5% for Black students. These numbers should be of concern regardless of whether they correlate with the representation of men of color in the profession.

Student Enrollment (2018-2019 SY)  NJDOE Data Report Student Enrollment (2022-2023 SY)  
1,364,714  Total 1,371,921  
663,199 48.6% Total Females 666,559 48.6% 
701,515 51.4% Total Males 704,687 51.4% 
589,865 43.2% Total White Ss 528,157 38.5% 
206,702 15.1% Total Black Ss 200,630 14.6% 
393,474 28.8% Total Hispanic Ss 455,575 33.2% 
84,079 6.1% Total English Learners 116,699 8.5% 
In the last five years, the number of Hispanic students, and English learners (emerging multilingual students) has grown significantly. 

Chronic absenteeism should also be taken into consideration. In New Jersey, students are considered chronically absent when they miss 10% or more school days. Statewide, chronic absenteeism for all students is 18.1%.  

Broken down by race/ethnicity the differences are astonishing. New Jersey’s white student population has a 12.9% chronic absenteeism rate, while Black and Hispanic students have a 28.4% and 23.4% chronic absenteeism rate, respectively. Is the lack of diverse educators a factor in these numbers? 

The importance of a diverse teaching force 

The presence of male teachers of color challenges stereotypes, misconceptions, widens students’ horizons and helps them dream of greater possibilities for themselves. The societal biases and stereotypes that continue to persist often limit the perceived potential of underrepresented groups. Seeing individuals who challenge these stereotypes can be transformative and empowering for all students. 

Male teachers of color serve as living examples of success and role models all while breaking stereotypes and inspiring students to pursue their dreams, regardless of societal and cultural expectations or prejudices. 

Moreover, male teachers of color bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the classroom, enriching the educational environment for all students. Their unique backgrounds, experiences and cultural insights help foster a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of the world. This diversity of perspectives enhances learning and prepares students to thrive in an increasingly multicultural and interconnected society. 

Furthermore, male teachers of color play a crucial role in countering the achievement gap that disproportionately affects students of color. Research consistently shows that having teachers who share similar racial or ethnic backgrounds improves academic outcomes for students, particularly those from marginalized communities.  

A diverse teaching force, including more male teachers of color, also creates bridges among various demographic groups within the school. Male teachers of color understand the cultural nuances and challenges faced by students who look like them. These teachers can provide targeted support and create culturally responsive learning environments that empower students to succeed. Such approaches otherwise might be overlooked. 

Male teachers of color serve as mentors and advocates, offering guidance and support beyond academics. For many students, especially those from underserved communities, having a supportive adult figure can make a significant difference in their lives. Male teachers of color serve as mentors who not only believe in their students’ potential but also provide the encouragement, rigor, direction and support needed to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. 

Dr. Angello Villarreal, Tiriq Callaway from Long Branch Public Schools and Dr. Vernon Smith from Monmouth University at the Brookdale Community Male Minority Initiative.

Systemic barriers 

Despite the clear benefits of having male teachers of color in education, systemic barriers persist, hindering their recruitment and retention. From implicit biases in hiring practices to inadequate support and professional development opportunities, male teachers of color face numerous challenges throughout their careers.  

Addressing these barriers requires a multifaceted approach. 

Educational institutions must prioritize diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices, actively seeking out qualified male teachers of color and creating pathways for their professional growth and advancement. These efforts to support and retain male teachers of color must extend beyond recruitment, encompassing mentorship programs, culturally responsive teaching training and opportunities for leadership development. 

Additionally, policymakers and education stakeholders must work together to address the systemic inequities that contribute to the underrepresentation of male teachers of color. This includes advocating for fair distribution of state funding for education, promoting equitable access to resources, creating task forces to support males in education, and developing policies that promote diversity and inclusion in the teaching profession. 

Proud Freehold Township High School students at the Brookdale Community College Male Minority Initiative.

Programs that are working to make a difference 

Universities, colleges and various organizations are working to support the diversity of the teaching force across the state and the nation. From NJEA and the Members of Color (MOC) Network supporting members in their union and in their school districts, to college and university programs that support their students of color, change is possible.  

For example, Brookdale Community College and its Male Minority Initiative Conference and Monmouth University and its Empowering Young Black Males mentoring program both welcome high school students from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities to attend conferences. Through various presenters, they can develop leadership skills while being empowered to reach their true potential.  

For students already enrolled, Rowan University offers Project IMPACT (Increasing Male Practitioners and Classroom Teachers), which aims to increase the representation of males from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds into teaching. At Kean University, Project Adelante is designed to reduce the dropout rate among Latino students by providing immersive experiences and activities designed to help students pursue higher education. Project Adelante is an alliance between Kean University and the Passaic, Perth Amboy and Plainfield school districts. 

Working with students at the middle and high school levels, the Center for Future Educators (CFE) is helping today’s diverse students see themselves as the next generation of educators. Based at The College of New Jersey, NJEA regularly partners with CFE. 

CJPRIDE, or Central to Jersey Program for the Recruitment of Diverse Educators, is a consortium of school districts throughout New Jersey. It supports teacher-candidates from diverse backgrounds and advocates for them.  

Nationwide, there are many organizations that advocate for diversity in the teaching force while offering support and mentoring for those already in the classroom. These include Edifying Teachers, Real Men Teach, the National Fellowship for Black and Latino Male Educators and the BOND Project, among others. 

Angello Villarreal, Ed.D., is an award-winning teacher of Spanish at Freehold Regional High School and an adjunct professor at Monmouth University. Born and raised in Peru, Villarreal focuses his research and teaching on culturally responsive practices, culturalization, language acquisition and providing more equitable opportunities for all students. From creating after-school programs to leading various projects, Dr. Villarreal believes working with the community is critical for the student’s success. He can be found on X using @DrV_Profe. 

Listed here are just a few of the many organizations here in New Jersey and across the country working to diversify the teaching force.  

The Bond Project 

Center for Future Educators 


Edifying Teachers 

The National Fellowship for Black and Latino Male Educators 

NJEA Members of Color Network 

Real Men Teach