Role models and representation in the classroom

How the lack of black male teachers fuels one scholar’s passion

Trey Fisher works with two students at Mendez Middle School on a small group assignment.

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.

Produced by Laura Mellett; edited by Brian Diggs; cinematography by Anne Bannister & Brian Diggs; production assistance by John Rohne
Trey walks down the street with his mother Crystal and brothers Rashad and Merrion.

A tweet from Trey reads: "Only 2% of all teachers in the US are black men. only 2%. Can we change that?"
Trey Fisher trains two new partners at the H-E-B grocery store in Austin Texas where he servers as a manager.

Serving the students who heed it the most

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.