BY VICKI MAYK
When Akello Amani Mosby ’22 entered Kutztown University, he didn’t plan on becoming a teacher. The Philadelphia native intended to major in accounting while playing center on the Golden Bears basketball team.
He chose Kutztown after graduating from George Washington Carver Engineering and Science High School, seeking a university that would give him a break from city living, allow him to play his sport, and prepare him for a business career.
That changed after he took an education class and became involved with the student group Emerging Educators of Color. Now, Mosby has completed his first year as a social studies teacher in the Parkland School District just outside Allentown, Pa. He teaches classes in American history and U.S. government.
“Accounting in that first semester didn’t feel right,” Mosby says. “And then I met Dr. Amber Pabon. I didn’t have that many Black teachers and then to have a Black professor, I thought, ‘All right. This is interesting.’ Taking her Education 100 class (Perspectives on American Education) really kind of laid a path for me and started a journey.”
FINDING A MENTOR
Pabon’s class covers the development of American public education from the 1800s to the present within social, historical, and political contexts. It also examines the exclusionary nature of early education and policies that prohibited people of color from attending school or created barriers to accessing education. The class inspired Mosby to want to be part of the solution.
“The class discussions and the openness and transparency that existed in that class were really important to me … I realized that this is something that people are involved in trying to fix. That’s something that I want to be involved in. I want to help fix the education system,” Mosby says.
With Pabon as a mentor, he became a supplemental instructor for one of her classes, performing administrative tasks and leading discussions.
Pabon, associate professor of secondary education and director of the Frederick Douglass Institute and the Emerging Educators of Color, says it’s not surprising that Mosby initially had not thought of a teaching career. Only 2 percent of teachers in U.S. public schools are Black men, Pabon explains, and when combined with Black women educators, the total is only about 13 percent.
Pabon has studied the experience of Black male teachers. She says that lack of role models in a white-dominated profession is just one factor that discourages students of color from becoming educators. Others include troubling experiences in the educational system, from unrelatable curriculum to a bias that can pigeonhole them as discipline problems.
Like Mosby, Pabon says, “Some of those folks are coming back to the classroom to fix the system so that future generations don’t have similar experiences.”
GAINING INSIGHT AND KNOWLEDGE
Mosby was among the first participants in Emerging Educators of Color, a group Pabon founded to encourage and support students seeking a teaching career. Discussions and advising help students see that “becoming a teacher is a noble career path.” Additional inspiration comes from trips to places like Washington, D.C., to mark the anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that ended segregation of U.S. public schools. Students also visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. A New York trip provided insight into the city’s public schools. Students spoke about their experiences at the university’s diversity conference. The group also has a practical component: Participants receive guidance navigating the steps necessary to become teachers, from ensuring they take required classes to preparing for certification exams.
Becoming an educator of color is more than being a role model, Pabon says. It’s also a way to share knowledge of a subject – one of Mosby’s strengths.
“Something I really appreciate about Akello is his passion about history. His facility with the material (in his classes) is masterful. It’s impressive,” she says.
Mosby’s enthusiasm for the subject is evident.
“A lack of knowledge of how our government functions is a disease that many young people have. In fact, we could all benefit from a little more education about how our government works, how our elections work, and the importance of voting,” Mosby says.
Using the example of women gaining the right to vote, he recalls a classroom discussion that examined the importance of voter inclusion, voter turnout, and the way certain demographics can impact election outcomes.
Although his career choice is different than when he entered KU, basketball remains part of his life. After playing for KU during his time as a student, he is now an assistant coach at his former high school in Philadelphia and also plays in an adult league. A lifetime of working with coaches informs the way he interacts with his students. As he finishes his first year of full-time teaching, Mosby says he’s assessing what approaches work best with students.
“I want to be able to create a welcoming environment where every student feels like they can be themselves, express themselves – and not hate being in school,” he says with a smile.
Akello Amani Mosby is a 2022 graduate of Kutztown University's Secondary Education program.
This article originally appeared in the 2023 Tower Magazine.