NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A group of educators in East Nashville say they're living proof that sometimes the person teaching the lesson is just as important as the lesson itself.
East Nashville Magnet High School has nearly 20 Black men in staffing roles from the principal to a teacher and even a coach.
"When I got here about four years ago, as an assistant principal I noticed immediately that there just weren't a lot of African-American male teachers or personnel at the school," said East Nashville Magnet High School Executive Principal Jamie Jenkins.
Jenkins says that's when he started recruiting. "That sort of blossomed into more and more African-American males in various positions from coaching positions to restorative positions to administrative positions."
Jenkins says the high school student population is about 95% African-American.
“A lot of our kids don’t even experience having an African-American male, especially as a teacher through their entire education process," Jenkins said. "My first one was in middle school and I’ve had former students tell me that I was their first one in high school. And so to be at a school where that’s becoming more of the norm as opposed to something that’s rare is certainly amazing.”
Jenkins went to middle school at the same school where he is now principal. He even grew up in East Nashville.
He posted pictures on social media of himself and the other 18 Black Male staff members. In the photo above you will find teachers, administrators and even a school resource officer.
"I love it, it really feels good to be the principal at a school with so much diversity," he said.
The U.S Department of Education says Black males make up only 2 percent of the teaching workforce nationwide.
"I think it’s good for the students to see, 'my teachers, my lessons are coming from someone that looks like me,'" said college prep teacher and bowling coach Jonathan Roston.
These men say having teachers and educators who not only look like their students but have similar upbringings is crucial. "If you can't reach them, you can't teach them," Roston said.
Data from the Tennessee Education Research Alliance says Teachers of color make up only 13 percent of the overall teacher workforce in the state.
"Being able to provide that vision for the kids that grew up in the same environment as you has been a positive influence," said head football coach and P.E. teacher Jamaal Stewart.
"My calling, my purpose was to do this and give back to the community I grew up in," said Stewart.
The men say it's one of the most important lessons they can pass to their students being a voice and a role model. All 19 men also donated money to a local non-profit called the Build-up.
It's a community organization that serves underprivileged students with educational resources such as ACT Prep training.