Jamaal Grant was studying biology at Colby College in Maine when a friend asked if he'd be interested in teaching after graduation.
Grant had planned to go to graduate school and build a career in science, but in need of a job, decided to teach science at a charter school in Boston.
Within two years of teaching, he realized he had met his calling. His students, most of them Black and some lacking a father figure at home, were routinely coming to him for advice on family challenges, career and life choices, and even sports talk. They confided in him.
"I felt like I was needed in that space," says Grant, now an 8th-grade science teacher in Boston Public Schools. "I was in there and I was like 'these kids need me.' I felt that every day was worthwhile."
Data shows that Black male teachers like Grant are underrepresented in schools across the country.
Just 1.3% of American public school teachers were Black men in the 2020-21 school year, according to the National Teacher and Principal Survey. That school year, White women made up 61% of public school teachers. Black children, meanwhile, accounted for 15% of public school students in the fall of 2020..