CONWAY, Ark. – One does not have to look far this time of year to spot a graduate. Putting on his cap and gown, Michael Garlington’s big day of getting a teacher administrator master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas didn’t come easy.

Garlington knew he wanted to become an educator but over the course of four years faced a significant barrier, the Praxis exam. He didn’t fail three, four, or five times.

“I took it at least 6 to seven times,” Garlington admitted.

Always a few points short, Garlington could get an education degree because of that one test and opted for general education degree.

“I graduated but I felt unfulfilled,” Garlington said.

He was able to get a job teaching social studies at eSTEM East Village Junior High in Little Rock, but like 4% of Arkansas teachers, he was uncertified. That is more than double the national average of 1.7%.

It was during his first year at eSTEM, Tina Fletcher, CEO and founder of The Test Prep Institute Founder & CEO noticed Michael needed help.

“I was doing a little research with some data that I had. I saw Michael’s and a few other students’ names quite a few times,” Fletcher said. “Being from Arkansas it was easy for me to say okay, I’m going to focus on my home state because we need it the most.”

After a few weeks in Fletcher’s Test Prep Institute, Garlington passed the PRAXIS with points to spare and applied for a graduate degree in teacher administration, filling a hole in the education system. African American males represent only 2% of teachers nationally and in Arkansas.

“That’s a low number, and that just tells me have more work to do,” Garlington said.

Since passing the Praxis, Fletcher has hired Garlington as a professional tutor. He has been working to help people online so they can pass the Praxis. Fletcher said he’s helped between 40 to 50 other educators over two years.

“Kudos for not giving up. A lot of teachers give up whenever they are not able to pass, and Michael just did not give up,” Fletcher encouraged Garlington during her interview.

“In all actuality without you, we wouldn’t be at this point,” Garlington replied.

Waling to receive his diploma Friday, Garlington was just one graduate making sure a line of others follow behind him.

“We have quite a few teachers that aren’t licensed, I would tell them to keep going because it’s right there, and then that license will open other doors in the future,” Garlington said.

He doesn’t have long before he hits the books again. His principal administrator test is in just a couple of weeks.