Brought To You By NSU; Written by Leah Jackson

Jalen Wilson, an education major at Northwestern State University, is focused on a career path in which he can be a role model for elementary age students.  Wilson, a Natchitoches native, is part of the Call Me MISTER program, which recruits minority males to become leaders in education. MISTER is an acronym for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.  


Wilson attended NSU Elementary Lab and Middle Lab as a youngster and is part of the university’s Catholic Student Organization. Although he comes from a family of educators, he didn’t always see education as a career path. After joining Call Me MISTER he realized that seeing people of color, especially Black men, as teachers and leaders in the classroom can have a significant impact on students in low-performing schools.  Part of the program includes service-learning projects like the Cradle to College initiative, which provides literacy activities, resources and support to children and their families. 


Wilson sat down with NSU to talk about the MISTER program, related service projects and reading to his 6-year-old sister and her class at Fairview-Alpha Elementary. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.  


NSU: Talk about the Call Me MISTER program and the work you did for Cradle to College.    


Wilson: Recently we went to read at different schools and gave away literary packets. We do community service at the Boys and Girls Club and anything with kids, helping out. Dr. [Michelle] Brunson emailed me one day and we put together the packets and she explained how they want to help the younger generation.  Some of them don’t have pencils or colors or anything.  I went to Fairview because my sister goes there, and I wanted to have the opportunity to read to her and her classmates. The other Misters went to L.P. Vaughn and read to them. I feel like when I’m in the classroom reading to kids it shows kids that look like me that they can also be an educator and go to college.  It’s someone for them to look up to.  


NSU: Did your sister feel pretty special having her big brother come read to her class?   


Wilson:  She was more like, “What’s this guy doing here? You’re not supposed to be here.” 


NSU: Can you talk about the importance of having Black men in leadership roles in schools?  


Wilson: It’s important to have Black men in leadership roles for, one, to be a mentor and someone to look up to and show them, whatever they want to do, they can do it if they put the hard work behind it in class and in school.  


NSU: Can you talk about some of your role models?   


Wilson:  Some would be coaches that I had that were also educators, whether in history class or English in high school.  That’s why I wanted to teach elementary, to reach kids at a younger age, because they don’t see Black educators sometimes until high school or middle school.  


NSU: When you were recruited to be in the Mister program and they said, “Do you want to teach elementary school,” what was your first thought?  


Wilson:  Some people think it’s crazy, I guess. They think I would be more towards high school or just want to coach or something, but I feel like I can make more of a difference in elementary and other grades.  


NSU: Do you get a lot of support from the other Misters?  


Wilson: Everyone in the program is very supportive and willing to help, whether with taking the PRAXIS test or needing someone to talk to.  We talk about different ways to be presentable when you go to observe or being around other people and setting an example of what we want people to think of when they see a Black educator.  


NSU:  What do you like about the elementary students?  


Wilson: They are not old enough to question your authority.  


NSU: What are some ways you hope to have a positive impact on your students?  


Wilson: Being a role model, whether it’s to people that look like me or people that may not look like me, even if they come from another background, be someone they can talk to when they need someone to talk to.  


NSU: What inspired you to be a teacher?  


Wilson: There are a lot of teachers in my family, whether elementary or high school and one is a community college teacher.  There is education in my family.  I like the benefits of being a teacher.  I’m a big family person outside of school.   


NSU:  Your mother is a teacher, too. What did she say about your being a teacher?    


Wilson:  She was very surprised. She thought I would be working somewhere more physical, construction or something.  


NSU: When you were younger, what did you think your career path would be?  


Wilson:  Football player.  


NSU:  What led you to come to NSU?  


Wilson:  I went to NSU Elementary Lab and Middle Lab, so I’ve always seen Northwestern events. I like being at home and it’s very convenient.  I wouldn’t want to be any other place to go to school. One thing I like about my professors is that they are very understanding.  They were once in my shoes, going to do observations and writing lesson plans.   


NSU: What do you like about being involved with the Catholic Student Organization?  


Wilson: I like the fellowship. We meet every Wednesday and we do community things, like Operation Christmas Child.   


NSU: Would you try to recruit other young men for the Mister program?   


Wison: Yes, if the opportunity presented itself, I would definitely try to recruit people to the Call Me MISTER program.  


NSU: What are you most looking forward to doing as an elementary teacher?   


Wilson: I’m most looking forward to seeing the kids’ smiles on their faces and being there to make their day.  


Jalen Williams read to students at Fairview-Alpha Elementary, including his sister, Addison Burch, a kindergartner.   

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