2020 was off to a great start for Clemson University’s storied Call Me MISTER® program. In February, the College of Education‘s program was recognized on the floor of both the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. MISTERs from every participating institution convened for a reception later that day celebrating the legacy of the program joined by educational leaders from across the state.
The next big item on the anniversary celebration agenda was the Call Me MISTER Summer Leadership Institute, which has become a key piece of the program experience for students over the years. Students and site coordinators from every participating institution get together to hear from guest speakers, network with one another, and learn valuable lessons about the part they’ll play as change agents in education.
The institute is also when the investiture ceremony takes place and graduating MISTERs receive their signature black blazer. It’s far more than an article of clothing. It’s a major milestone. It’s the peak of a mountain ascended before a MISTER moves on to fulfill their commitment to teach in a public school.
However, those students have yet to don the blazer in front of their peers, and what was to be a weeklong institute in late June became a single speaking event held via Zoom. According to Roy Jones, executive director of Call Me MISTER, 2020 had other plans.
There are many conversations around race going on at the moment all across this country, and we’ve always seen that context is one of the most important things to get right when discussing anything with our students. It’s now more important than ever to have future educators understand their place in history and the responsibility they will bear as educators moving forward.Mark Joseph, Program Coordinator for Call Me MISTER
“Just like everything else we had planned for our MISTERs, those blazers will arrive, just maybe not in the timeframe we originally planned,” Jones said. “COVID-19 meant we had to adapt, so while an abbreviated summer leadership institute was disappointing, it has changed into something we’re very excited about.”
The late June speaking event featured Dr. Sandra McGuire, director emerita of the center for academic success and retired assistant vice chancellor and professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University. McGuire is a metacognition expert who has successfully closed the achievement gap for students of color. The online event held via Zoom was well received by students, so it proved to be a trial run for an entirely new, expanded version of the institute.
The Call Me MISTER Leadership Series was born from this event and the recognized need to convene MISTERs in an online format. MISTER leaders wanted to take advantage of Zoom to cover topics ranging from practical instruction to leadership values, so it quickly became clear that it could not—and should not—be relegated to the summer.
“There are many conversations around race going on at the moment all across this country, and we’ve always seen that context is one of the most important things to get right when discussing anything with our students,” Joseph said. “It’s now more important than ever to have future educators understand their place in history and the responsibility they will bear as educators moving forward.”
Protests revolving around race, police brutality, statues of historical figures and building names have obviously emerged as topics that students want to explore and seek guidance on. Jones and Joseph admit that if there was ever a time to provide MISTERs with context, now would be it.
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