WCU Call Me MiSTER program graduates its first cohort

Andrue Smith was among the first group of graduates from the Call Me MiSTER program. Donated photo Andrue Smith was among the first group of graduates from the Call Me MiSTER program. Donated photo

When Andrue Smith walks across the stage this spring after earning his bachelor’s degree in middle grades education and history, he will have charted a path for men of color wanting to become teachers. 

Smith will be Western Carolina University’s first graduate of the Call Me MiSTER program.  MiSTER stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models — the program aims to increase male diversity in teaching.

“Call Me MiSTER helps meet a great need in our community,” said Kim Winter, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions. “We know that North Carolina must diversify its teacher pipeline and build pathways into education for students of color and bilingual students. Our MiSTERs are more than representation — they graduate as novice teachers who are well-prepared to engage students in academically challenging and affirming learning experiences. We are so proud of Andrue and look forward to watching his journey unfold.”

Charmion Rush, WCU’s Call Me MiSTER program director, said the program helps break barriers that hinder potential teachers entering the workforce.

“Statistically, our classrooms are very diverse in terms of student population, but we don’t have varied representation in our teaching positions,” Rush said. “We want students to see themselves when they look to the front of the classroom and to develop a broad conception of what a teacher can look like. We have a mission at WCU for inclusivity and this is another great example of how we’re pursuing that goal.”

Each MiSTER receives a $5,000 scholarship along with laptops and software, an academic support system, and professional development and career support. Also, all members live together in the same residence hall to create a learning community cohort model for social and cultural support.

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“MiSTER creates community, a brotherhood, as these students live and study together. It’s important to provide emotional and social support,” Rush said.

Smith, who comes from Easley, South Carolina, said that being the first MiSTER in North Carolina was a responsibility he was happy to accept.

“It was important to me because I wanted to represent this great program and the other students who would come after me as well,” Smith said. “I wanted to set an example.”

Smith said some of his best college memories were traveling to conferences on diversity and equity with other members of the program.

“I got to be a big brother, part of a community. We joked around and looked after each other. We held each other accountable,” Smith said. “My favorite memory is riding on the bus down to Greensboro for a conference. I think we laughed the whole way down — we just all enjoyed each other’s company.”  

Through the MiSTER program, Smith was afforded a summer internship at Asheville Middle School for two consecutive years.

“I had a lot of fun there. Guiding young students, being a part of their formative years and helping them find their path is rewarding,” Smith said. “I learned more about classroom management and patience.”

During his senior year, Smith took on a teaching internship at Cherokee Central Schools. He observed, taught his own classes and received constructive criticism to help him mature as a teacher.

“Anyone who is going to be successful in a teaching program needs to have a willingness to learn, to receive feedback and apply their learning to grow,” said Chris Wilmoth, instructional facilitator at Cherokee Central Schools. “Andrue showed growth as he adapted and applied feedback toward classroom management. He has a great enthusiasm and his communication skills have grown this year.”

In 2000, Clemson University was the founding institution for the MiSTER program, serving students attending three historically black colleges and universities — Claflin University, Benedict and Morris College. The Call Me MiSTER Network now consists of 28 partner institutions in South Carolina and the program has expanded to 11 states. WCU is the only institution in North Carolina to offer the Call Me MiSTER program.

Smith is unsure if he will stick around Western North Carolina or head back home to start his teaching career but Rush said he will thrive regardless of his location.

“He is a natural teacher,” said Rush. “He is upbeat and connects with the students. He makes the content relatable and that’s what the students need to see, someone genuine. Every time I observed him, I saw him grow. He has a great future in front of him.”

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