Spotlight Story: Dr. Medgar Roberts
Dr. Medgar Roberts has always felt that schools serve a function in our communities far beyond providing academic instruction.
“School is a vehicle to grow little humans and make them knowledgeable and make them well-adjusted, to give them the things they need to be happy — to nourish the body, to nourish the soul and to nourish the mind,” said Dr. Roberts, who earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees in education at University of Phoenix.
Dr. Roberts has been an educator for more than 25 years, currently serving as vice principal of Henderson Middle School in Texas. Throughout his career, he has inspired others in his profession to make a difference through his work promoting representation, diversity, equity and inclusion in the teaching profession. His passion is to inspire others to recognize the importance of representation in education.
Dr. Roberts has served as a National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) Outstanding Black Male Educators Fellow and worked as a research fellow for the UOPX Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research, where he worked on a team authoring a white paper examining the career trajectories for Black male educators with the Center’s Chair Dr. Kimberly Underwood.
“Medgar is a force,” Dr. Underwood said. “He has the ability to naturally impact every group, every person, every student he comes into contact with in a positive way. I think the reason why we bonded in such a meaningful way is due to his keen interest around diversity, around inclusion and the mission of the Center.”
Dr. Roberts feels strongly that education is about building and maintaining relationships with children, their families and other educators.
“If you don’t build those relationships, if kids don’t know that you care about them, the education part does not work as well,” Dr. Roberts said.
When we don’t have representation, two things happen. It takes a lot more work and it is work people aren’t always willing to do. And two, we have a tendency to focus on those differences — the differences in culture and the way things are done — and we move away from the sameness that is the cauldron of the classroom.
— Dr. Medgar Roberts
This is one of the reasons why it is so important for children to have teachers who represent them, who look like them or have similar cultural or ethnic backgrounds. It removes one of the often many barriers students may bring into the classroom, making it a little easier for students to connect with their teachers, Dr. Roberts said.
“When we don’t have representation, two things happen. It takes a lot more work and it is work people aren’t always willing to do,” he says “And two, we have a tendency to focus on those differences — the differences in culture and the way things are done — and we move away from the sameness that is the cauldron of the classroom.”
Black, male teachers like Dr. Roberts are in increasingly short supply. Less than 2 percent of teachers are black men. Why this is, and why an increasing number are leaving the teaching profession are research questions Dr.Underwood continues to pursue at the University with a new research project called 100 Black Male Educators Speak.
University of Phoenix College of Education Dean Dr. Pamela Roggeman said Dr. Roberts played a pivotal role in the college expanding its efforts to produce culturally competent teachers.
Dr. Roberts helped inspire the college to expand its efforts to provide culturally competent teacher preparation. The college has since hosted a faculty diversity training, created a diversity, equity and inclusion advisory council and revamped its conceptual framework to embed equity and inclusion throughout the curriculum. She says the goal is for the University to prepare teacher candidates who will include this work in their classrooms, as well.
“He really is driven to be part of the national conversation on what we need to do to be deliberate and specific about advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in education,” Dr. Roggeman said. “He was a huge piece in the foundational work that will live on in each one of our courses.”