New UIC Brothers Teaching initiative aims to diversify pool of teachers 

Decoteau Irby talks about the new Brothers Teaching initiative with educators, business and nonprofit leaders and financial supporters May 22. Irby, associate professor of educational policy studies in the College of Education, is the initiative’s director. (Photo: Tim Lemberger/University of Illinois Chicago)

A new initiative at the University of Illinois Chicago — Brothers Teaching — is expanding the UIC College of Education’s approach to supporting men of color as they pursue undergraduate and advanced degrees in education and become teachers. Brothers Teaching will launch its first group of students this fall.

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By supporting these students as they work toward undergraduate degrees in urban education and advanced degrees, Brothers Teaching aims to grow the diversity of men certified and working as teachers in Illinois schools. It prepares them for K-12 teaching careers with professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities. 

On May 22, educators, business and nonprofit leaders and financial supporters of Brothers Teaching gathered in Chicago to prepare for the fall launch of the initiative. 

“This new initiative supports schools throughout Chicago and Illinois,” said Decoteau Irby, UIC associate professor of educational policy studies and director and founder of Brothers Teaching. “We are thrilled to be able to help to increase the number of Black and brown male teachers, which are desperately needed.”  

Only 4% of the approximately 135,000 teachers in Illinois are men of color, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.  

“We know when students have Black or brown men as their teachers or in their schools, there are tremendous academic outcomes for them,” said Jeniece Fleming, coordinator for Brothers Teaching. “We want to change the narrative. We want to increase the number of diverse teachers that are serving students, because all of them matter.” 

Previously, UIC had a chapter of the multi-institution Call Me MiSTER program, which has a similar mission — to make the pool of available teachers more diverse. Brothers Teaching at UIC will build on the past success led by Irby and Fleming, but more importantly, it will focus on including more disciplines and scalability, specifically in Illinois communities.

Through Call Me MiSTER, Irby, Fleming and the College of Education have established a track record for recruiting and preparing men of color to be teachers. Drawing on that experience, Brothers Teaching will newly incorporate a commitment to research, aligned with UIC’s public-research mission. 

More information about the program is available on the UIC College of Education website. 

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