By Valerie Strauss - Washington Post

Ronald Maggiano is somewhat unusual in the teaching profession. That is because he is male.

Maggiano is an award-winning teacher in the Social Studies Department at West Springfield High School in Virginia. He has taught in public and private schools for 25 years.

In a piece on his blog called “The Classroom Post,” he calls for more males to enter the profession.

Here’s why:

Men Teach, a non-profit organization that encourages men to enter teaching, reports that in 2008, 18.8% of all elementary and middle school teachers were men.

At the high school level during the same year, men comprised 44% of the work force.

Why are there so few men in teaching? Men Teach cites low pay and lack of prestige, as well as a perception in our culture that teaching is for women. As a result, there is no organized effort across the country to recruit men into the teaching profession.

A study in 2008 by the National Education Association showed that the number of male teachers hit a record 40-year low. Males comprised 24.5 percent of public schoolteachers.

States with high percentages: Kansas (33.6 percent), Oregon (31.6 percent), Alaska (30.9 percent) and Indiana (30.5 percent).

States with the lowest percentage of male faculty: Arkansas (16.2 percent), Virginia (17.4 percent), Mississippi (17.5 percent), Louisiana (18 percent), South Carolina (18.5 percent) and Georgia (19.7 percent).

And get this:

Men account for only about 2% of all teachers of children from birth to age 8.

There is no definitive research that male students–or female students, for that matter– learn better from a particular gender.

We know, of course, that educational research is, at best, spotty. But there are important reasons why more males must enter the profession at the pre-K-12 level.

If you believe, as I do, that teaching (and teaching well) is as important a job as any, then it is equally important that young people see both men and women actively involved.

For children who live only with a mother, a male teacher may be the only positive male role model in their lives. That matters.

Here’s Maggiano’s take:

“Kids today, both boys and girls, deserve to have the same opportunity to learn from strong, dedicated men that I did. Unfortunately, I have heard little discussion about this problem coming from our national leaders.

“Hopefully, the Race to the Top initiative now being pushed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will at some point address this critical shortage of male teachers in America’s schools.

“After all, the Race to the Top cannot be won by women alone.”