by Abby Wuellner, KY3 News

Schools everywhere are always looking to hire good qualified teachers. But finding an abundance of male candidates can be a challenge.

When schools set out to hire new teachers, they’re not just looking for those who can teach. They also want role models, both in and out of the classroom, which is why the shortage of male teachers is particularly troublesome.

One Robberson Elementary kindergarten class looks like many others. But, if you take a look beyond the books and blocks, sometime the kids don’t even recognize what separates their class from many others: Christopher Smith is their teacher.

“I’m just another teacher to them,” said Smith.

That may be the case with his young students but Robberson’s principal says Smith stands out to their parents.

“Some parents have requested, ‘I want my kid in the class with a male teacher,” said Principal Kevin Huffman.

Across the region, they’d have to look hard to find one. Men account for just under 10 percent of teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms in southwest Missouri. The numbers slip for those in kindergarten classrooms to 4 percent.

Smith has seen that reality in past staff meetings.

“It would be me and 20 women,” he said.

He’s in good company at Robberson, though.

“We have several male teachers,” said Huffman.

Nine men at Robberson work with kids at all grade levels. Huffman says, however, he doesn’t necessarily look for men to fill his occasional openings.

“I look for those who are going to be a good fit with the kids and the neighborhood,” he said.

And, if that happens to be a man who can make a positive impression on a child’s life, one who might not see many others, it’s all the better.

“It’s good for them to see a positive male acting responsibly,” said Huffman.

A lot of schools have gone out of their way to find good men to teach their elementary students. In all of southwest Missouri, numbers have gone up from around nine percent to closer to 10 percent in K-6 education.