NEW YORK - Growing up, DeAngelo Blanchard didn't have many teachers who looked like him.
“I only had six teachers of color in my entire K-through-12 experience, and only two of them were men of color -- my high school science teacher and my high school dance teacher. And now that I’m a dancer and also a dance teacher, I think that had a lot to do with it," Blanchard said.
It's a big reason why Blanchard is a member of New York City Men Teach, an effort by the de Blasio administration to recruit more men of color to teach in the public schools. Blanchard mentors teachers in the program.
"I didn’t have that guide or navigation my first year. It was really just: these are the things you need, and it really felt arduous. And I wanted to make sure that that was not ever the experience for any other man of color," he said.
In 2016, the last year for which figures are available, just 3.7 percent of the more than 70,000 city public school teachers were black men. Three percent were Latino men, and less than 2 percent Asian men. Launching the program, the de Blasio administration set a goal of hiring 1,000 men of color as teachers.
One of them is Dennis Feliciano, who is being mentored by Blanchard.
"I can talk about what I feel like I’m doing well, what I could do better, so it allows me to be reflective as a teacher," Feliciano said.
When he's not mentoring, Blanchard teaches at Bronxdale High School. Many of his students do look like him.
"For me, it has been about making sure that I don’t bring in the same damage that I had as a child, the people who may or may not have looked like me or did not believe that I could achieve the goals that I have achieved -- I want to make sure those feelings don’t come into the classroom," Blanchard said.
He tries to teach in ways that appeal to his students. For example, by setting ballet lessons to R&B music.
"They can’t learn like I did in my ballet academy, with fear -- because they don’t want the goal like I did, so they wouldn’t put up with that fear. Two, I love dance so much that I don’t want anyone to enter my class out of fear," he said. "So I have to find that joy."
The city is doubling down on its efforts to recruit men of color to teach, with Mayor de Blasio announcing in his State of the City address a new goal of adding another 1,000 men of color to the pathway to become teachers by 2022.