Thetis White, a fifth-grade teacher at Monroe Elementary School in Minneapolis, recently received a $50,000 check from a nonprofit organization to help pay off his student loans.
Markus Flynn, executive director of Black Men Teach, presented the check to White in front of his students in April while camera crews captured the scene, EdSurge reported.
The fifth-grade teacher, who previously coached football, broke out into tears after receiving the check inside of his classroom in April.
"It's a great thing that they did. I know that he deserves it very much," one of White's students said.
Flynn is also a Minneapolis educator who understands the financial burdens weighing down teachers. The former epidemiologist, who later switched to a career in education, said it's important to hire and elevate more Black teachers such as White.
Citing one study, in particular, Flynn said a Black student who has one Black teacher by third grade is 13% more likely to enroll in college. Adding to the data, the Minneapolis educator said Black students who have two Black teachers by third grade are 32% more likely to attend college.
“When I started looking into education studies I saw some of the most compelling statistics I've ever seen in any field,” Flynn told EdSurge.
The Black Men Teach director said he worries about students facing the same racial incidents he faced while growing up. Reflecting on one traumatizing encounter from his childhood, Flynn noted the time when police detained him after accusing him of stealing a bike he owned.
“I call it, like, school-induced trauma,” he said. “I think if you talk to almost any Black man, they can give you an experience of something that stuck with them for a long time, a very memorable experience that happened in school where they were treated unfairly because of their race."
According to Flynn, Black boys in Minnesota represent 10% of the student population, but 42% of the discipline incidents.
“A place like Minnesota is actually a place that should be the first place looking to change because the outcomes are so disparate and it's so obvious," the non-profit executive said. "And in Minnesota right now, it's the hub when it comes to like this focus on equity and justice, given the murder of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. And so this is a place where the work really needs to be done.”
But there are enough resources available in order to make a change in the community, according to Flynn.
“Minneapolis has the most nonprofits per capita. The money is here, even in education,” he said. “There are so many people who are motivated and inspired to see change, that think things will be different.”
White emphasized the need for more Black teachers when he spoke with KARE11.
"There is definitely a need for more Black males in general in the classroom. It's hard when you don't have someone that looks like you that cannot always be able to relate to you in certain situations," he said.