LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A groundbreaking program in Los Angeles seeks to eliminate the hurdles Black men face in becoming teachers.
Every month for two years, the young men participating in the program will meet to strengthen their academic muscle, their ability to connect with students and inspire them to thrive.
But there's a deeper purpose behind the Teacher Village program. It aims to recruit, retain and place Black men in the classroom, and give them the professional development they don't often get in the credentialing process or even from school districts.
They study self-care, body language, how to motivate students and the importance of their own presence in the classroom as men of color.
The most recent data available from the California Department of Education shows men, in general, are underrepresented in teaching.
Black men make up about 5% of all male teachers and just 1% of all teachers.
Research from the Institute of Labor Economics shows having one Black teacher in grades 3-5 can cut high school dropout rates by 39% for low-income Black students and increase college interest by 29%.
"When you have an educator that's in front of you that looks like you, it lets you know that there are things possible that you can achieve," said Peter Watts.
Teacher Village is the brain child of Watts and his wife Didi. The educators know firsthand the biggest hurdles for young teachers: navigating the credentialing process and finding affordable housing.
"These two things are what we say is our secret sauce," Watts said.
It's what convinced Leodes Van Buren. He tried getting his credentials in Los Angeles, but when he couldn't afford to stay he flew back to his native Georgia. He was working as an Uber Eats driver trying to make ends meet.
"While they're in our program they have a choice to live in housing that we're providing that's affordable, so that they can focus on becoming a great teacher without having to worry about: where am I going to live? how much is it going to cost?" Watts said.
Van Buren is one of the first resident fellows at Teacher Village's West Adams location, a single-family home now open to as many as five fellows.
But the Watts have plans to build more housing on the property and eventually create several Teacher Villages throughout Los Angeles.
"Students spend an awful lot of time at school with teachers," Didi Watts said. "So I say it's one caring adult that can make the difference, and change the life's trajectory of a student."