Educator tries to open doors for young black men

“I’ve always enjoyed learning, but I couldn’t stay in college all my life, so I had to get a job.”

Scott Dantley became Florida A&M University’s dean of the College of Education in July, and he is already working to create a vision for the college. Dantley is reconstructing the college to improve its effectiveness with students and developing an initiative to increase the number of black male educators.

He brings his desire to elevate FAMU’s college of education from his varied experiences in education.

Dantley became Bowie State University’s dean of education at age 38 and is now the FAMU College of Education’s dean at 40. Before entering leadership positions, Dantley found his niche in science education. He worked at the National Science Foundation and taught at middle schools, community colleges, Southern University, Temple University and Bowie State University.

Teaching Runs in My Blood

If it weren’t for a teacher who looked out for him, he wouldn’t be where he is now.

“You remember your good teachers and your bad ones,” he said. “I was influenced by those who wanted to see me excel.” Dantley, who grew up in Rochelle, Ga. and Washington, said educators always surrounded him.

His grandmother, one of his most important mentors, brought him along when she worked with the Head Start child development program. Many family members on his mother’s side worked in education.

But at one point during his latter years in high school, he decided he didn’t really want to go to college. When one of his teachers found out, the teacher visited Dantley’s home. “The teacher knew I had the potential and said, ‘You’re going to college,'” Dantley reminisced.

He went on to attain a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and a master’s degree in chemistry from North Carolina A&T University. He also earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in science education from the University of Maryland.

“Someone took the time to notice me and make me successful. I went from being someone who didn’t want to go to college to running a college.”

Tackling the Men Shortage

Dantley said he wants to make his experiences available to other black males.

He is working with the state government to develop an initiative at FAMU to increase the number of black male educators. “Students tend to do better if they can connect with the person teaching them,” Dantley said.

This initiative is similar to one he worked with at Bowie State focused on recruiting and retaining males in education, called Men Equipped to Nurture.

“Extensive research demonstrates that one of the principal factors contributing to the under-representation of minority men in college, and their under performance in primary and secondary school, is the absence of male role models in education,” the M.E.N. Web site states.

Dantley said his initiative will improve outreach to males in public schools and help support males when they enter the college of education and after they graduate.

“We want to remove all barriers for males to become educators by making resources available,” he said.

The college will also have a support structure and bridge program for students to enter graduate programs.

“Dean Dantley is trying to bring the college where it needs to be,” said Dwayne LaFavor, 22, a senior elementary education student from Fort Lauderdale.

“To get more males in to the program, we need more male teachers and more males recruiting,” said LaFavor, who is vice president of the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society. “We could also use more clubs or programs for males to talk about issues because education is mostly female driven.”The lack of males in education is one reason LaFavor chose his major.

“My father was not in my life, so my goal is to help males growing up and to give them a role model,” LaFavor said.Stephanie Evans, 22, Miss FAMU and a senior elementary education student from Fort Lauderdale, said the initiative could be beneficial to the college.

“In my education classes, there are usually two or three guys and 25 girls,” Evans said. “And most of the males aren’t even regular education majors. Many specialize in things like music or physical education. It will be hard to recruit more guys into the program if it’s (teaching) not in their hearts.”

Dantley said he believes the lack of interest in education is a major hurdle in the educational system nationwide.

“You have to increase interest in education in general,” Dantley said. “If students have negative experiences in public schools it will impact their decision to become teachers.

Planting Seeds of Change

“When you accomplish a lot professionally at an early age, you can begin to focus on what’s important (in life) and making a difference,” Dantley said. “I have time to reflect…am I doing all I can to make a difference?”

Dantley said he has learned that he can’t change every problem in the world, but every one can take time to make a small change.

“You never know where your good deeds will take root,” he said. “You hope what you do will help someone else.”