As a male kindergarten teacher, new Brook Forest School teacher David Mangless is a rare breed — only 2.3 percent of the country’s preschool and kindergarten teachers in 2013 were men, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Q. Did you know that you wanted to teach kindergarten when you decided that you were interested in becoming a teacher?
A. Pretty much. When I was in high school, they had a learning lab with a real preschool. I thought it would be fun, so I signed up for a class where we worked with the kids there, and I liked it so much that I continued to work in the learning lab.
Q. What did you enjoy so much about working in the learning lab with the young kids?
A. Mainly developing a connecting with the kids and seeing their growth. It’s crazy how much progress they make, and it’s an awesome feeling to be a part of that with them. Kindergarten is a year in school where the kids have so much eagerness and are so excited. There are so many firsts you can do with them.
Q. How do you feel about the responsibility of playing such an important role, as a kindergarten teacher, in setting an early tone of how kids will feel about being in school?
A. I love it. It is very important setting the foundation with them. Having engaged students is the fist step to having them succeed in learning, and I love helping them to become engaged in the classroom.
Q. What do you do to get your students engaged?
A. You have to make them feel comfortable and feel that they have a safe place when they’re in the classroom. You also have to have flexibility and patience. They are very sensitive, so you have to have a lot of care and compassion. And they love having fun, so I like to do things that make learning fun for them. And I’ll do things like having a two-minute dance break with them.
Q. What’s your take on the fact that there are so few men teaching kindergarten?
A. I wanted to defy the odds a bit by teaching kindergarten. I know there are not a lot of men doing this, but I think it’s good for kids to see males outside of typical roles.
Q. Were you working as a teacher someplace else before coming this year to Brook Forest?
A. I taught kindergarten for two years in Wisconsin after graduating college in 2012.
Q. How and why did you end up coming to Brook Forest?
A. I was looking to get into the Illinois area; I have a lot of friends teaching here. I knew this was a very nice district with a lot of parent involvement. I also was excited about the idea of being here for the first year of full-day kindergarten because that’s what I came from.
Q. How do you feel about working as a teacher at Brook Forest?
A. It’s surpassed all my expectations. I knew this was a very good district, but I didn’t realize before how sought after it was as a place to work. It’s totally humbling being chosen to work here.