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About the push for more black male teachers

Black Philadelphia teachers are at the forefront of a national movement to increase the numbers of men of color teaching school in America—including here in Philly.

Want to know more? Attend the National Black Male Educator Convening in Philly October 18-20.

Citizen of the Week: Imere Williams

The Boys’ Latin senior, one of two student reps on the School Board, wants to be the voice of his peers

The Boys’ Latin senior, one of two student reps on the School Board, wants to be the voice of his peers

For most of us, high school is an awkward period defined by braces, puberty and embarrassing wardrobe decisions that haunt the archives of our social media. For Imere Williams, a senior at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia, it’s proving to be a time of self-discovery and meaningful action.

Williams, 18, is one of two students selected by the School Board to be a student representative this year. (The other, Doha Ibrahim, will be our next Citizen of the Week.)

Do Something“I wanted to do this because I’m very, very passionate about student voice,” says Williams, who’s particularly committed to elevating the views of students who aren’t normally heard, like underprivileged youth who, he says, aren’t typically given a platform to express their opinions.

Student reps are non-voting members of the School Board, tasked with communicating with the other members on behalf of their peers about issues that arise in the Philadelphia school community.

“I think a lot of times students are afraid to speak up, and are not even asked their opinion, and I don’t think that’s right,” Williams says. “So I did this to be that voice for students who are shy and don’t want to speak up or feel like they can’t.”

Williams’ position on the Board is just one of many leadership roles he’s taken on throughout high school: He’s a member of National Honor Society, Latin Club, and his principal’s advisory and hiring committee.

But before you write off his extracurriculars as mere application-checklist fodder, consider this: Williams doesn’t just enjoy representing students—he hopes to some day teach them, after attending college to become an educator.

“I think a lot of times students are afraid to speak up, and are not even asked their opinion, and I don’t think that’s right,” Williams says. “So I did this to be that voice for students who are shy and don’t want to speak up or feel like they can’t.”

It’s a particularly meaningful aspiration at a time when, even in Philly, only 4.5 percent of teachers are black men. It’s a calling that Williams’ teachers have been nurturing in him for years.

“Coming up in school, teachers were always asking me to help students who Read Moredidn’t get it. So I was always teaching and helping and tutoring throughout school,” he says.

Being tapped to help others, Williams adds, felt like being given a sense of purpose and responsibility. It generated a spark in him, and led him to set his sights on teaching. His role on the Board felt like the ideal platform to have his voice—and the voice of others—heard.

Williams credits his mother as his main source of inspiration, and also shouts out Noah Tennant, CEO of Boys’ Latin, for showing him what it takes to be a leader.

Williams says that, as a naturally shy person, he would’ve been confined to the safety of his “shell” if not for Tennant, whose close mentorship got him more involved in his school community and prepared him for his application for the student representative position.

But his main motivation for wanting to become a teacher is his desire to empower students and show them the capability of their own voice, and how to use it. He hopes to return to Philadelphia after college to teach junior high school.

Custom Halo“Nationally, only 2 percent of teachers are black males. And it’s been proven through research, time and time again, that having a black male in education is gonna cause [black male] students in high school to pursue higher education,” Williams says.”Inclusion is important, especially in the field of education.”

But Williams is already looking beyond teaching. “A big goal for me is to one day open up my own school,” he says. “I want to have a school that serves every student who wants to learn and do great things in life. I want it to be a school that transforms students.”

Photo courtesy Imahni Moise

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