By Caroline Hecker -

Over the past 20 years, the number of male teachers in both elementary and middle school grades have plateaued at around 16 percent, a number that remains true at La Crescent Elementary School.

The school has five male teachers on staff and only one male student-teacher this year.

Garrett Soper is that student-teacher and he says the need for male role models in the classroom is growing.

“These kids are just hilarious,” he said. “I feel like most of these kids want to be here everyday, they’re really enthusiastic and they try hard and they want to be at school so it’s fun to be around that energy,” he said.

Last summer Soper decided to change his career path after being a news photographer at News 19. He enrolled at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in the summer of 2015 and began taking classes and working in the field to obtain his masters degree as well as his teaching license. He’ll officially graduate later this year.

Originally, he wanted to teach high school social studies, but after a closer look at elementary education, decided it was a better fit.

“I had friends outside of work that were teachers and just the way they talk about their job I thought it was something really cool to be a part of.”

Soper said male teachers working in elementary and middle school grades have stereotypes to overcome and it’s an ongoing struggle.

“I think there’s a stereotype that men aren’t as nurturing or caring or as patient with kids this age,” he said.

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