By Candace Sweat - ABC3340

Walk into any grade school and look around. It’s hard to find a male teacher. Less than 20 percent of teachers in elementary and middle school are men.

Experts say young boys, who often lag behind girls in academics and maturity levels, could benefit from having a male teacher.

One local teacher who says he wants students to learn early that career choice should not be determined by gender.

In Perry Phillip’s fourth grade class at Greenwood Elementary, students are learning about two women in history who broke barriers and crushed stereotypes. It’s a lesson that hits close to home with Phillips. He is the only academic male teacher at Greenwood.

“It was during the time that I was a substitute teacher that I realized that I wanted to be a teacher. That I had the inner gifts, the inner strengths,” he said.

But few males come to the same realization. For the past twenty years, the number of male elementary school teachers has stagnated. It’s less than 20 percent. Male kindergarten teachers. Just two percent.

Phillips says the problem start early.

“I believe it starts at a very early age when young boys are two and three years old when they receive affirmation and encouragement when asked what they want to do,” he said.

He says boys are often applauded for wanting to be firefighters or the president. But not a teacher.

Also, salary is an important part of the formula for men, especially if they are the primary bread winner.

“Here in the south the male typically earns the majority of the income. And it would be very hard for the head of the household to be able to support three or four children,” he said.

But why is this a big deal?

“It is not uncommon for a lot of parents to hold their male children back a year so that they enter kindergarten at age six instead of five. And that has a lot to do with physical maturity and of course the academics,” he said.

However, some experts say young boys’ academic and social performance would improve with more positive male influence in the classroom. Phillips students say they enjoy having a man for a teacher.

Phillips says he’s glad his students see first-hand that male teachers are not unheard of.