How the lack of black male teachers fuels one scholar’s passion.
By Jonah Rohne
Photography by Anne Bannister
Trey Fisher distinctly remembers the first time he had a teacher that looked like him.
He was in a middle school gym class and he remembered looking up to see that the teacher was black. The moment stuck with him.
“It was definitely comforting … just to feel that representation,” he said.
Trey kept coming back to that moment. He ultimately decided to commit his life to recreating that moment for others. He recognizes a lack of diversity in the teaching profession today and believes strongly in the importance of students seeing what success looks like — in being a role model and seeking out role models for himself.
From an early age Crystal Fisher emphasized the importance of education to her three sons Trey, Merrion, and Rashod.
Trey grew up in Killeen, Texas, a military town near Waco. His mother, Crystal Fisher, often worked two jobs to support herself and her three boys, Merrion, Trey, and Rashod. “I want my kids to be better and have better than me,” Crystal says.
Merrion is the oldest of the Fisher boys by 13 months. Rashod likes to point out that he is the second oldest by one minute — he and Trey are fraternal twins. Though technically the youngest, Trey has always been eager to prove himself and blaze a trail for his brothers. Both Merrion and Rashod say Trey is their role model.
In middle and high school, Trey was at the top of his class. He graduated with both his high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time and could have chosen any career. He thought about becoming a lawyer. He even wrote a letter to Yale Law School as a sixth grader asking for career advice. But Trey’s ultimate desire is to help others, so he chose the career he believes influences the greatest number of people: teaching.
Trey enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin as a math major and joined UTeach, a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher preparation program. In UTeach, he is learning how to teach math at all grade levels. “I’ve come to realize it’s not just a grade level or subject,” Trey says. “I really do love working with everybody.”
Throughout his schooling, Trey observed a lack of teachers that look like him — and the research backs this. In America, according to the U.S. Department of Education, black students make up 16 percent of the public school population. Yet black males comprise only two percent of the teaching workforce.
Why does this statistic matter? Because research shows having black teachers makes a huge difference in the lives of black students. In a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are 32 percent more likely to graduate and enroll in college.
Trey is a vocal advocate on social media for greater diversity in teaching.
“It’s very clear that anybody can help you succeed,” says Trey. “You can see an image of success from anybody, but you’re more likely to feel successful when you see people who look like you.”
He wants to be in a position to encourage other black males to pursue careers in STEM education and is a peer mentor in UTeach. “I want to see more people in my position, more people stepping up … and realizing being an influence is key,” he said.
Trey is an influence to others beyond the classroom. When he is not studying, mentoring, or student teaching, Trey works part-time at H-E-B, a Texas-based supermarket chain. There too, he is a leader, leaving a lasting impression on those around him. Within the first three months at his store, Trey was named Partner of the Month and was promoted to trainer — now he onboards new employees.
Trey has become a leader at H-E-B by training new employees and seeking other leadership roles.
Justin McDougall, the store service manager and Trey’s boss says, “We use him inside the store to leverage the teaching ability he has … He knows partners’ strengths and opportunities and how to really develop them into their true potential.”
For Trey, this is not just a job. His co-workers refer to him as “Mr. H-E-B” due to his passion for the iconic Texas brand and its core value, “Because People Matter.”
In 2019, Trey was awarded the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation’s Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers. When Trey found out Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, started the scholarship, Trey was ecstatic. And when he received the award, he was humbled.
“Charles Butt has been like a hero on both sides. He created this beautiful company where somebody was willing to take a chance on me and hire me, and then I ended up getting a scholarship in his name … It just meant a lot to me,” says Trey.
In his limited free time, Trey volunteers at Mendez Middle School in Austin, Texas, a school where 98.7 percent of the students are black or Hispanic. After graduation, Trey hopes to teach math at Mendez.
Pamela Powell, Trey’s professor and mentor, noticed Trey’s ability to connect with students at Mendez. “The populations of students we are dealing with are very diverse. And for someone to look at Trey knowing he’s first generation and he has made it as far as he has made it, I think that’s a great example for other students,” she said. “He just encourages students to work with each other and take ownership of their own education and learning like he has done.”
Trey said a lot of students fail out of school or give up because people don’t believe in them. “It only takes one person believing in you. I just want my students to carry that with them. That’s something I definitely bring into the classroom,” he said.As a Charles Butt scholar, Trey is gaining the skills he needs to continue reaching the students who need it most. One day, he hopes to do that for other teachers as well. “I feel like the scholarship is for people who don’t just want to teach, but who want to make a difference in education,” he says.
Trey enjoys working with students at Mendez Middle School in Austin ISD.
Trey is already making a difference. His twin brother, Rashod, recently decided to follow in Trey’s footsteps and pursue a career as a teacher. Rashod hears the way Trey talks about his students, and he hopes to have the same impact with his future students.
Trey is a powerful advocate for his brothers, his coworkers, his peers, and students — and he is the future of the teaching profession in Texas.
Discover all posts