- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Students in David Wallace’s fifth grade class occasionally utter a word seldom heard in the elementary classrooms around Oldham County, the state or even the United States for that matter. The word is “mister.” Wallace is the only male educator at Goshen Elementary. There is also only one male educator teaching at each of Centerfield, Crestwood and Liberty elementaries. There are 19 male teachers and three administrators among the nine public elementary schools in Oldham County. Wallace manages his classroom with a calm demeanor and a dry sense of humor. He plays basketball with students at recess and sometimes even plays H-O-R-S-E with a squishy ball inside the classroom. For student Alex Foote, Wallace is his first male teacher, and although he likes the teachers he’s had before, he likes having a guy. “It’s actually pretty fun getting a male teacher,” he said.He feels lucky. “The odds are like 100 to one,” he said. The actual chances of getting a male elementary teacher are 6.3 out of 100 in Oldham County Schools, according to statistics from the Oldham County Board of Education, and 8.3 out of 100 nationwide, according to the National Education Association, the lowest total ever. The shortage of males seeking a teaching career has prompted an NEA drive to “identify, recognize, recruit and retain” more male teachers, with an emphasis on elementary and minority teachers, according to the association’s web site. Locally, there is an effort to recruit more males for the elementary level, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Support Services Rick McHargue said. McHargue, an elementary teacher for 11 years and an elementary principal after that, said he and other school board personnel involved in recruiting try to direct qualified male candidates to elementary positions, but it’s a challenge. As McHargue goes to recruitment fairs at colleges around the state, he gets the feeling that men don’t see teaching in elementary schools as a job fit for a man. Many men indicate in not so many words that working with young children is a job for women and that teaching at a middle or high school is more appropriate, he said. The desire to coach sports also attracts men to teach at middle or high schools, McHargue said. Although elementary teachers are permitted to coach high school sports, most head coaches are high school faculty. Although elementary schools are feeling the hardest crunch for male teachers, the percentage of males teaching in all grade levels has steadily declined starting in the mid-1970s, according to the NEA. They now stand at their lowest ever total — 24.1 percent. Kentucky’s statistics are even lower at 21 percent, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. Oldham County is still lower as only 20.7 percent of teachers are male. Although women vastly outnumber men in the classroom, in Oldham County, male employees are slightly more common at the administrative level. There are 21 male principals or assistant principals compared to 19 females. McHargue said school board personnel are not only trying to recruit males, but also minority teachers. “Our students work and live in a very diverse world,” McHargue said. “They need to see that reflected in their schools.” The challenge is that Oldham County lies next to the much more diverse population of Jefferson County, which McHargue said seems to be more attractive to minority teachers. Even though the number of minority teachers and administrators in Oldham County is steadily climbing, there are still only eight Blacks among teachers and administrators, two Hispanics and two Asians, compared to 748 whites, according to figures from the Oldham County Board of Education. Six years ago, Wallace chose a pay cut from his career as a marriage/family therapist and Presbyterian minister when he decided to earn a third master’s degree and study education. The biggest reason was he wanted to be more involved in his four children’s lives. Now he’s on the same schedule, and for three of his children, at the same school. He said he wanted to contribute to his community, and the best contribution he could see was to positively influence children’s lives. Wallace said he likes that he can be a positive, consistent role model to children during their formative years. Children need positive male role models, he said. Many come from families where fathers aren’t at home. He can’t replace other men in children’s lives, but for the 40 hours a week they are at school, he can set a good example. And not enough men are filling those necessary roles. “Men are socialized into other areas, and not as much toward nurture and care for young kids,” he said. Goshen Elementary principal Candace Sellars said social norms discourage males from the kind of direct personal interaction that is often required of an elementary teacher. Males are not always comfortable with hugging or consoling a crying child, as teachers like Wallace have to do from time to time. And that is a loss for elementary schools, she said. Having a male on staff offers a diverse perspective, she said. For instance, boys at Goshen score well on CATS tests, but lag behind girls at their own school. Wallace is an integral part of the discussion of how to help those boys score better, she said. Most importantly, he gives boys someone they can look at and see themselves, Sellars said. “If you don’t see a mirror image of yourself achieving, you don’t really know if you can do that,” she said. The atmosphere is different in Andy Moore and Bill Hudgens’ fifth grade math class at Kenwood Station Elementary. If Wallace cultivates a mellow classroom, Moore cultivates one that is all energy. Fast-talking and enthusiastic, Moore partners with the quieter veteran Hudgens to teach a math class that spills between two adjoining classrooms with a divider panel removed. Most students at the school have only had one male teacher, art teacher Corey Beatty. Then they get Moore and Hudgens — two at once. Moore said he learned quickly that being a man does not necessarily demand respect from students. Like any teacher, he had to earn respect from of his students. And the respect of society. When Kenwood principal Phillip Moore (no relation) wanted to become an elementary teacher, his father didn’t understand why. His father believed it wasn’t a man’s job. “But he saw how much I love kids,” Phillip Moore said. Andy Moore’s family was more supportive. His father was a long-time educator. But some people are surprised Moore teaches at the elementary level. “Nobody directly criticizes, but sometimes it is patronizing. They say, ‘Oh, that’s great that you do that,’” he said. Andy Moore said some students, both male and female, do respond better to a male. Phillip Moore said sometimes parents request a male teacher but usually parents request a teacher based on reputation. Phillip Moore makes an effort to bring male role models to the school, even if they are not teachers. He said he recruits men from the community to read to classes, to show boys that reading is cool. And he does try to hire qualified males when he has the opportunity, he said. When a male applies to teach at Kenwood it is certainly an attractive option, but in the end, the decision comes down to what teacher is best for the job, Moore said. “You want a school full of the best teachers, regardless of gender,” he said.
E-mail us about this story at: email@example.com.