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Introducing Sirtify!

Normandale Community College is pleased to announce that the pioneering program launched in Fall 2021 under the temporary name Black Men in Teaching is now "Sirtify."

Sirtify is a fun and memorable play on words evoking the program's target audience and goal," according to Program Coordinator Marvis Kilgore. "We wanted a name that would distinguish our program from the work of other organizations with complementary missions. In Sirtify, together with its tagline [CULTIVATING BLACK MALE TEACHERS], we found a name that captures our program's fresh, unique personality."


According to the most recent data available, 101,388 of the 870,506 students enrolled in Minnesota schools in the 2019-2020 school year (11.6%) were Black/African American (MN Dept. of Education, Minnesota Report Card), but only 1,521 of Minnesota's K-12 teachers holding a license (1.5%) were Black/African American (PELSB, 2021 Biennial Report of Supply & Demand of Teachers in Minnesota).

Keenly aware of this longstanding gap, Normandale Community College President Dr. Joyce Ester aspired for many years to develop a program to recruit and help prepare Black men to be K-12 teachers. Her vision came to fruition with the Fall 2021 launch of a new Normandale program, initially referred to as Black Men in Teaching, designed to recruit and support Black, African American, and African men into the K-12 teaching profession.

The program seeks to empower black men in education to have a positive impact on all students, especially those from similar backgrounds. "There is widespread concern across our community about the lack of diversity among teaching professionals," President Ester said.

"The intentionality and specificity of Sirtify positions Normandale to be a part of the change that students and communities need. This program will transform not only the lives of the students we educate at Normandale, but the lives of the students they will teach in the future."

The inaugural Sirtify cohort started in late August 2021, and the program added a second cohort in January 2022. Sirtify Program Coordinator Marvis Kilgore seeks to expand the program's enrollment from six students in its first year to a total of 20-25 by 2025.

Kilgore, who came to Normandale in 2021 to develop and lead Sirtify, has been a champion of diversity and equity in education in the United States and abroad. "Having the opportunity to directly address equity and inclusion issues in the State of Minnesota by placing more Black men in the K-12 educational setting is an enormous responsibility - and a crucial one given the racial climate in Minnesota and beyond," he said. "We believe Normandale is the first college in the Midwest to offer a program focused on cultivating Black male teachers," Kilgore added, "and there are likely aspects of Sirtify that are nationally unique."

According to Sirtify student, track and field coach, and self-described "father first" Darringer Funches, "I choose [this] program at Normandale simply because it allowed me the opportunity to pursue a dream that I felt was unable to happen [otherwise]. To have the opportunity to go through this program with Men of Color who have a common goal makes it more real."

Sirtify offers academic, career, and personal support to persons who identify as Black, African-American, and African men with a goal of becoming licensed K-12 teachers. Support includes helping students successfully transfer into four-year, bachelor's degree-granting institutions after they finish two full-time years at Normandale (or the part-time equivalent in academic credits). Students in Sirtify receive annual scholarships of up to $10,000 covering all tuition, fees, books, and supplies, plus a contribution toward cost of living, funded by donors to the Normandale Community College Foundation and other sources.


Why did Normandale decide to start this program?

The racial inequities that prevent Minnesota from reaching its full potential are becoming increasingly apparent to people across the state. As that recognition grows, so does the sense of urgency around developing a K-12 teacher corps that reflects the racial diversity of our K-12 student population. This is a workforce development challenge with profound social consequences for generations to come.

Normandale is Minnesota's largest community college, and has a long track record of welcoming and serving a racially diverse student body. It has a longstanding, widely respected Education Department that has launched hundreds of future K-12 teachers on their higher education journey. Given these factors, Normandale is uniquely well-positioned to help our state diversify the K-12 teacher pipeline.

What do we know about the impact of diverse teachers on K-12 students? Why does it matter to diversify the teacher corps?

A wide range of studies show that students learn more when they have teachers who reflect their own race and ethnicity.

  • For example, a study of students in Tennessee found that Black students who were randomly assigned to at least one Black teacher in grade school were nine percentage points more likely to graduate from high school and six percentage points more likely to enroll in a post-secondary institution than Black students who were not assigned any Black teachers. (Source: Gershenson, S., Hart, C.M.D., Hyman, J., Lindsay, C., & Papageorge, N.W., "The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 25254. November 2018, revised February 2021.)
  • Another study regarding perceptions and attitudes toward education found that students who had a teacher of the same race as them reported higher rates on measures such as feeling cared for by teachers, interest in their school work, and college aspirations. The largest benefits were for matches of both gender and race/ethnicity. (Source: Egalite, A.J. & Kisida, B., "The Effects of Teacher Match on Students' Academic Perceptions and Attitudes." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Vol. 40, Issue 1. 2018.)

In Minnesota, it is reasonable to infer from available data that many students get through their K-12 years with very few-if any-opportunities to learn from teachers who share their race and ethnicity.

In the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area in the 2020-2021 school year, roughly 12% of all K-12 teachers identified as BIPOC, compared to 48% of K-12 students. (Source: Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), "2021 Biennial Report: Supply & Demand of Teachers in Minnesota."

Supporting Sirtify

Ways to support Sirtify:

  • Help get the word out to potential Sirtify students and community partners.
  • Contact Coordinator Marvis Kilgore ( to express interest in serving as a mentor to a Sirtify student or volunteering in some other capacity.
  • Make a charitable gift to the Normandale Foundation to support the program.

About Normandale Community College: Established in 1968, Normandale is a premier, comprehensive community college offering a curriculum that spans more than 60 liberal arts and science disciplines. With exceptional faculty and intensive student support services, we prepare students for success in transferring to four-year colleges and universities and joining the workforce. Normandale is the largest community college and third largest institution in the Minnesota State system. Our student body is very diverse, with nearly two-thirds of degree-seeking students identifying as low-income, first generation, and/or Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color.

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