One thing that I’ve come to enjoy about driving Uber is crossing paths with people on their special and most cherished days. Whether it’s picking up a three day old newborn (with his parents, of course) from his first doctor’s visit, or dropping off the sister of a groom getting married at city hall in the middle of the week, I really adore witnessing those special moments. Now that graduation season is upon us, I’ve had a few graduates hop into my Uber, and, naturally, I was full of congratulatory encouragement. One passenger was a recent grad of Columbia University with her Masters of Public Health. She and I discussed her Master’s thesis as I drove her to Newark Airport to catch a flight to Cali, and the work that she’ll be doing after a well-deserved summer off in San Francisco. Another brilliant graduate I recently ubered on his graduation day is a young brother from Brooklyn named Makesi. I picked him up following an afternoon of celebrating the completion of his degree in Education from Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. When I found out that he’d received his M. Ed., I was full of questions that began with whether or not he was an NYC Teaching Fellow. “As a matter of fact, I am.” He replied.
He went on to tell me about his subject area, Mathematics (which I think is amazing!), and how he’s come to love teaching middle schoolers in East New York, Brooklyn. I asked him about the challenges of teaching middle school, and why he even decided to become a teacher. His response was admirable, along the lines of feeling like he was called to the profession following an early career in the financial industry after completing undergrad. More than just a math teacher, he is a mentor and a reliable positive force in his students’ lives. There are daily rewarding experiences, he said explaining the relationships that are formed with his students. Because of him, they are inspired and want to learn. He is aware of how much they look up to him and other teachers who really care about their development. As we spoke on the way to his destination, it reminded me so much of a report I’d read late last year. The city of New York had introduced an initiative to hire more Black, Latino and Asian men to become teachers in the Department of Education.
The report by Washington Times touched on the diversity of NYC with 8.4 million people of color living here, and how much that diversity needs to be reflected in the nation’s largest school system. “While approximately 43 percent of New York City Public Schools male students are black, Latino or Asian, about 8 percent of male teachers belong to those groups. Of the city’s 76,000 teachers, just 6,600 are men of color, city officials said.”
NYC.gov’s Young Men’s Initiative further details the city’s much needed goal of increasing the number of influential men of color in our classrooms:
“In January 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio, in conjunction with New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, made a bold pledge: NYC will develop new initiatives and programs aiming to put an additional 1,000 men of color on course to become NYC public school teachers over the next three years. The Young Men’s Initiative, together with Department of Education, City University of New York, Center for Economic Opportunity, and Teach for America, excitedly announces the launch of NYC Men Teach to recruit and unite Black, Latino and Asian men committed to educating today’s diverse student population; supporting each other’s professional and leadership development; and to empowering the communities they serve.”
I’ve come to know a number of male friends who are working as teachers, and I always appreciate the drive and commitment they have to their students, which in larger part is a commitment to the community. They are teaching critical thinking and shaping their students to become college and career ready, and most importantly, productive members of our society. I was so proud of Makesi that I asked him if we could take a picture so that I could feature him on Uberlicious, and he was excited to do so. I’m really grateful for folks like him and all of those who are making a measureable difference in the lives of the youth in our country.