More male teachers needed

One arena where demand for male role models is always high is in public schools across America.

As chair of the early childhood program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dominic Gullo has been tracking this closely. "There's a kind of affirmative-action program going on at a lot of the school districts here," he says. "Our male students are usually the first ones to be hired."

Since 1992, when his prekindergarten through third-grade teaching program began and he started actively recruiting men, Mr. Gullo has seen a rise in male enrollment from zero to 10 to 25 percent of graduates in recent years.

Demand may be high, but in most teaching programs, the perennial shortage of male applicants continues. The male elementary school teacher is still rare.

"Men just see themselves as secondary-school teachers, not teachers working with little kids," Gullo explains.

During the 1997-98 school year, only 15 percent of America's 1.6 million elementary school teachers were men, according to the National Education Association. But that figure is up from 11.6 percent in 1996.

Roland Hence, director of admissions at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass., reports that in the past several years, male enrollment has fluctuated between 25 and 29 percent, with most signing up for the administration, planning, or social-policy programs instead of classroom work.

Shifting from school records to his own experience, Mr. Hence shares a personal concern about the shortage of men in classrooms. "I am an African-American, and I have a seven-year-old son. It's possible that my son could go through his entire education without a teacher who looks like me."

Then with a sudden flash of inspiration, Hence offers an editorial suggestion: "I've got a headline for your story - Wanted: Men!"

No doubt many educators around the US would agree with him. But until more men sign up for careers in elementary education, people like Gullo and Hence will keep plugging away, talking up - to whoever will listen - the golden opportunities that await male teachers in America.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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