GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program holds second annual banquet

Grambling State University’s MiSTERs pose together following the second annual Call Me MiSTER banquet held on Aug. 6. (Photos by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

There are officially more MiSTERs at Grambling State University to begin the fall semester.

GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program added nine new MiSTERs to its ranks as the second annual Call Me MiSTER Banquet was held Saturday night at the New Living Word School Family Life Center in Ruston.

Chancellor Marco French of Queensborough Leadership Academy in Shreveport served as guest speaker for the banquet.

The Call Me MiSTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role models) program was founded originally at Clemson University in 2000. The program strives to increase the pool of available teachers from a more diverse background, particularly among the lowest-performing elementary schools.

Because less than 2% of the teachers in the U.S. are African American males, Grambling State’s Black Male Teacher Initiative joined with Clemson’s program to help develop and recruit more Black men into the teaching profession.

Student participants are largely selected from under-served, socio-economically disadvantaged, and educationally at-risk communities. Call Me MiSTER serves students at 19 participating colleges within South Carolina as well as eight national partner institutions, including Grambling State.

The 2022-23 Grambling State MiSTER inductees honored during a pinning ceremony at the end of the banquet are secondary education majors Tremayne January, Keith Garrison and Terrence Robinson; elementary education majors Tyrin Batiste, Tony McClain, Adrien Myles, and Furnell Haynes; and music education majors Stephen Augman and Tyris Hall.

“This outstanding group of new MiSTERS shows how this program is growing and paving the way for a better education for all students in Louisiana from kindergarten through college,” said Dr. George Noflin, director of GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program.


Keynote speaker Marco French delivers his message during GSU’s second annual Call Me MiSTER banquet held on Aug. 6.

French, a GSU education graduate, spoke to the group about the determination he needed to endure a long road en route to becoming a Gates Millennium Scholar at Grambling State before eventually being named Louisiana’s 2021 Principal of the Year.

As he spoke about that determination, French took the audience to church as he talked about how his love of teaching began.

“Let me take you back to where it all started — church,” French said. “I was teaching Sunday

School for juniors, ages 11-13. I did that for a couple of years and then started teaching the primary class. Then they moved me again. Now I was teaching the senior class.”

“So, then I was teaching people older than me in church. My foundation for learning started in the church. It didn’t start in high school. It didn’t start at Grambling State University. It started in the church. I was teaching people older than me in the church. My teaching foundation began in the church. High school and Grambling (State) just taught me the other things I needed that I didn’t get in church.”

One of the things French learned in church was the perseverance he would need later in life.

French talked about the success he found as a student at GSU being on the President’s list every semester and being a Gates Millennium Scholar. Then he spoke of taking the Praxis test more than eight times without being able to pass it, eventually graduating from GSU with an Associate’s degree in child development before Atkins Elementary School took a chance on providing him the opportunity to showcase his teaching skills as an uncertified substitute teacher receiving $80 per day.

He continued by talking about eventually becoming principal at Queensborough and having it removed from the state’s academically failing. Under French’s leadership, the school received recognition as Louisiana’s Outstanding School, ranking first out of the top 10 high-performing schools for third-grade literacy progress and growth in 2019.

French then discussed a 2008 book about him not being certified at that time written by two certified teachers who worked at the same school he did.

He then talked about becoming certified and only teaching in the classroom at that level for three years before becoming an administrator.

French then showed the group his teaching diplomas before again taking the young MiSTERS at the banquet to church as he brought out a Bible, holding it for all to see.

“This book is all about Marco French,” he said. “It may not say Marco French by name, but if you read it, you’ll see it says, ‘My child.’ I am His child. This book outweighs any other book or certificate. The author of this book is much bigger and more important than any other author.”

“The authors of this book written about me not being certified at that time underestimated the power of the author of this book — the Bible.”

Winding down his speech, French circled back to the words perseverance and determination and the roles those two attributes have played in his life. Determined was the theme of the 2022 Call Me MiSTER Conference hosted by GSU on June 30.

“The difference between successful people and others who aren’t is not from a lack of strength or a lack of knowledge, but rather from the lack of determination,” French said. “MiSTERS, continue to be determined to make a difference in the lives of the scholars you’re going to lead, the lives you’re going to touch, and the impact you’re going to make on them.”