MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many Midsouth children are already heading back to school after their summer break, but for some students, there may not be enough teachers in their classrooms.

To help fill the gap, a new effort is underway to place high-quality male teachers of color in schools.

As many school districts struggle with teacher shortages, there is a new push to place more Black and Latino male teachers in classrooms in the Memphis-Shelby County School District.

“It absolutely can make a difference because there are boys of color in those schools and boys need to see someone who looks like them in spaces other than athletics and entertainment,” said Dr. Patrick Washington, founder and CEO of the Man Up Teach Fellowship.

This weekend, Man Up Teacher Fellowship, a non-profit organization, will be in Memphis looking for men of color who have a passion for teaching or are just looking for a career change that can make a difference.

“We all benefit when our staff is diverse, particularly in schools when students see themselves in the front of the classroom it increases their likelihood to be successful and experience success in school,” Dr. Washington said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, less than two percent of teachers are men of color. Man Up aims to increase that number in its partner schools by five percent over the next five years.

“We support it 100 percent and we’ll do whatever we can to support it from the NAACP,” Van Turner said, Shelby County Commissioner and Memphis NAACP President.

The Memphis chapter of the NAACP said this program is needed.

“Whether it’s the coach or whether it’s the teacher we’ve all relied upon men in our lives to be role models to be mentors and to give us life lessons outside the curriculum and that’s the importance of having these young men in these classrooms,” Turner said.

Men accepted will earn a tuition-free Master of Education degree, as long as they commit to teaching for five years. It’s a program that could not only change their lives but the lives of young people.

“We have more kids finishing high school and going to college and fewer kids out here in the streets making bad decisions. All of it is connected. Great schools, great communities, safe schools, all of it goes hand in hand,” Dr. Washington said.

Anyone interested in the Man Up Fellowship Program in Memphis is invited to attend a kick-off signing day ceremony tomorrow afternoon at Loflin yard from noon until 2 p.m.