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The power of role models

Tech programs team up to share new book with second graders
Friday, December 13, 2019
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Leader photo by CALEB DANIEL
            Louisiana Tech freshman Da’Mon Moreland reads the university’s new book, “The Journey of Dr. John Stewart IV” to second graders at Glen View Elementary School Wednesday morning.

Update: headline added — Dec. 13

Louisiana Tech University education student Da’Mon Moreland recalls attending elementary school in Ruston as a child.

And while he remembers his teachers fondly, there was no one to show him that someone like him could become a teacher one day.

“I didn’t see any people who looked like me,” Moreland said. “I didn’t have someone in school to be there and show me that I can be whatever I want to be — that I could be a teacher.”

Call Me MiSTER

Moreland is an African American male seeking to become an educator, and that alone makes him a rarity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only two percent of teachers in the U.S. are black men.

“It’s really an epidemic situation,” said George Noflin, an assistant professor in curriculum instruction at Tech.

That’s why Noflin and other faculty at Tech launched the Call Me MiSTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program two years ago. Originating at Clemson University, Call Me MiSTER aims to recruit, financially assist and train young African American men like Moreland to become highly qualified elementary school teachers.

Now in his first year with the program and on his way to fulfilling his dream, Moreland returned to Glen View Elementary School Wednesday, which he attended for four years as a child, to read to second-grade students and show them that anyone can be a teacher.

“Looking at them, I could see myself sitting there and wishing I had somebody like that to look up to,” he said. “Now, I can show the kids, ‘You can be whatever you want to be. I was in your shoes, and now I’m on my way to being what at one point they told me I couldn’t be.’”

Moreland and Noflin, who directs the program, joined Tech junior and Call Me MiSTER President Nicholas Cobb in visiting each second-grade classroom at Glen View, letting the students gather around, and interacting with them eye-to-eye while reading and leading activities.

Cobb said programs like this are all about providing students of all backgrounds with more positive role models.

“Educators never gave up on me, so I owe it to them to go back into the classroom and mold the next generation of leaders,” he said.

What’s more, the book these young men were able to read to the children, a recent creation by Tech students and faculty, is centered on the subject of role models as well.


The children’s book “The Journey of Dr. John Stewart IV” is a recent product of Tech’s Visual Integration of Science Through Art (VISTA) program.

This program brings together faculty and students from the art and science disciplines and combines those different skill sets to broaden students’ capabilities and contribute to the scientific community.

“It was really created so we could introduce students to using visuals to communicate complicated information,” VISTA Co-Director Jamie Newman said. “The students are learning that they don’t have to choose science or art — they can integrate the two and use their science knowledge and art skills together.”

As an offshoot of that concept, the program is looking to create a series of “journey” books for kids that highlight the lives and careers of successful Tech alumni and provide more role models for young area students.

“As much as we like having an impact on the university for the faculty, we like having an impact on the community too,” Newman said.

“We want to show kids in the community that they can be like these people. They can grow up in Ruston and having these amazing careers in the science, engineering and math disciplines.”

Written by Newman and illustrated by Tech studio art student Jacob Broussard, the first “journey” book tells the story of prominent oncologist, educator andTechalumnusJohn Stewart IV.

The book encourages interaction with young readers throughout the story, asking them to picture what they want to be when they grow up and think of the people in their lives who inspire them to achieve that goal.

“I think having the Call Me MiSTER guys read it to these kids is the best representation of the book for them,” Newman said.

A true partnership

After Tech First Lady Kathy Guice reached out to the Lincoln Parish school system, the district’s ACHIEVE program purchased enough copies of VISTA’s book for each second grader at Glen View to receive one.

This allowed the Call Me MiSTER students to do their reading and then gift each child with a copy.

“It is always beneficial to our students to have anyone modeling reading for them,” Glen View Principal Jana Comstock said. “It’s somebody new and fresh, and a lot of times it’s somebody just like them who may have struggled in school and has persevered and is now exploring options in college.

“So it’s encouraging for them to see, ‘Here’s someone like me, look what they’re doing, and perhaps if I work hard, I can be doing the same thing.’”

But Noflin said the opportunity was just as beneficial for his students as Glen View’s.

“I think the experiences that these young men have gone through today and through (other volunteer opportunities) are just making them better and enhancing them to become better educators,” he said.

At the end of the day, Cobb said it’s all “for the kids.”

“I know the effect we can have — today those kids smiled from ear to ear from the time we walked in to the time we walked out,” he said. “I don’t need a milliondollar check — you give me that and I’ll be rich for life.”