Pursuing Education Career Was ‘No-Brainer’: Black Former Principal on Quest to Attract More Black People to Teaching

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A Black Philadelphia former principal awarded $300,000 by Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris plans to use the money to recruit Black teachers in an area practically starved of diversity among educators.

Black teachers represented less than 3 percent of educators in Pennsylvania schools in 2018, and Black men represented an even smaller share, barely 1 percent, according to National Center for Education Statistics data WHYY-FM cited.

“I believe my calling is to support current and aspiring black educators,”  Sharif El-Mekki told the station last month.

El-Mekki founded the Center for Black Educator Development in June after serving as a teacher and principal in Philadelphia for 26 years, WHYY reported.

“I’m blown away,” El-Mekki said in accepting an oversized check for the organization at a grant-giving ceremony organized in Philadelphia last month by Smith, who signed a $180 million contract with the 76ers this past summer.

Although the CBED is modeled around teachers, El-Mekki created it with students in mind.

“We aspire to lift up Black students by significantly growing the number of highly-effective Black and fellow educators who appreciate the power of culture and have elected to fight for social justice in classrooms through revolutionary education,” he said on the Facebook page for the organization.

The son of members of the Black Panther Party, El-Mekki is traveling the country in the hopes of luring Black professionals into teaching, WHYY reported.

It’s a far cry from the legal career the educator reportedly thought he wanted after he said he was shot in the leg by a rival he had just tackled in a pickup football game on a Philadelphia playground.

The veteran educator said he only switched career paths after attending a  School District of Philadelphia recruitment meeting out of respect for one of his mom’s friends.

“Once I saw the impact and the connection between racial, social and educational justice, it became a no-brainer for me,” he told WHYY.

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