The Best of Us S2/E1: Preparing the Black Teachers of Tomorrow with Sharif El-Mekki

In this episode of The Best of Us, Center for Black Educator Development (CBED) founder Sharif El-Mekki talks us through rebuilding the Black teacher pipeline by focusing on the teachers of tomorrow: today’s middle and high school students.

The CBED focuses on advocating for policies that promote diversity, providing professional learning opportunities, and creating pathways for aspiring Black teachers.

Sharif takes us through investing entire leadership teams in diversity work, strategies for community partnerships in an embattled education ecosystem, and the importance of Black teacher voice. He also speaks to the critical importance of not just recruiting Black teachers, but retaining them — and why so many districts stumble after the “what comes next?”

Listen now:


The Story of Sharif El-Mekki [01:39] Sharif shares his background and how he transitioned from wanting to be a lawyer to becoming an educator.

The Mission of the Center for Black Educator Development [02:21] Sharif discusses the mission of the Center for Black Educator Development and their focus on rebuilding the Black teacher pipeline.

Partnerships and Programs [06:36] Sharif explains the partnerships and programs that the Center for Black Educator Development has with school districts and colleges to support high school students interested in teaching.

The importance of early exposure to teaching [08:16] Discussion on the need for early exposure to teaching as an elective in schools and the efforts to patch up the leaky teacher pipeline.

Choosing Philadelphia, Camden, Memphis, and Detroit as starting points [09:28] Explanation of why these cities were chosen for the Center for Black Educator Development's work and the criteria for success in those regions.

The need for explicit experiences in teaching [11:00] A student's experience of not having opportunities to learn how to teach and the importance of providing explicit experiences and technical aspects of teaching in schools.

The importance of diverse teacher academies [17:37] Discussion on the need for diverse teacher academies to prepare the next generation of teachers.

The impact of seeing Black educators [18:47] Exploration of the importance of students seeing Black educators as influential figures in history and the impact it has on their own aspirations.

The critical role of teachers as civic leaders [21:00] Highlighting the role of teachers as civic leaders and their influence on children, youth, and movements, using the example of a teacher's involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott.

The importance of considering the experience of Black teachers [26:01] Discussing the need for districts to consider the experience of Black teachers in their schools and the lack of exposure to minority perspectives among white teachers.

Creating a retention toolkit for leadership teams [27:06] Explaining the development of a toolkit for school leadership teams to support the retention of educators of color and create a conducive environment for all students.

Setting goals and understanding the experience of leadership [31:44] Advises district leaders to set explicit goals for retaining educators of color and emphasizes the importance of understanding how people experience their leadership.

Setting goals and using data for improvement [38:20] Discussing the need for leaders to set goals and use data to measure progress and identify areas for improvement in attracting and retaining talent.

Recognizing the difference between importance and prioritization [39:41] Highlighting the difference between acknowledging the importance of diversity and actually prioritizing it by aligning systems, mindset, and feedback loops to support diversity initiatives.

The racial element and microaggressions [42:55] Discussion on the experiences of Black educators facing racial microaggressions and the impact on their work.

Recruiting and retaining Black educators [44:00] Exploration of explicit strategies to recruit, support, and retain Black educators, including the importance of understanding Black teaching traditions.

The marginalized Black educational canon [45:08] Highlighting the historical marginalization of Black educational traditions and the need for educators to be aware of these concepts for better teaching.

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