by Rick McCrabb - Journal-News

They can have a positive effect in the classroom, research shows.

Men make up only 10 percent of the elementary school teachers in Butler County, a trend seen nationally and one that concerns education experts.

The Middletown Journal analyzed staff lists in 10 Butler County districts, and of the 1,603.8 full-time equivalent teachers in elementary schools, 164 — or 10.2 percent — are men, according to 2010-11 data from the Ohio Department of Education.

The percentage of male teachers in Butler County increases dramatically in the higher grades: 26 percent (143.8 of 544.4) of teachers in the middle schools are men, and 42 percent (379.3 of 897.1) of high school teachers are men.

Nationally, men make up 18.3 percent of elementary and middle school teachers and 42 percent of high school teachers, according to the 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Men have steered away from elementary education because of stereotypes, fear of false sexual accusations and low status and pay, said Bryan G. Nelson, founder and director of MenTeach, a non-profit organization based in Minneapolis.

“What happens, especially (with) younger children, people think that men can’t be nurturing,” Nelson said. “Or some people believe that men don’t want to do it.”

But research suggests male teachers can have a positive impact, he said, citing a study that showed middle-school boys performed better in reading with a male teacher.

“It’s not that just putting any man into a classroom because it’s a guy is going to make a difference,” he said. “But we do think that men can bring something into the classroom.”

Wright State University has an average graduating class in early childhood education of about 100 students, with up to four men a year, said associate professor William Mosier.

“There is a stigma against males in America about certain professions,” Mosier said. Seeing men in early childhood classrooms can dispel stereotypes, he said.

“If young children are raised in a household where the mother’s loving and the father’s just the disciplinarian, it’s handy for children to see the role of adult male as also nurturing,” he said.

Kee Edwards, principal at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Middletown, said most male teachers land in high school because that’s where they met instrumental teachers or coaches.

He also said men typically don’t think teaching is lucrative enough. “That’s the bottom line,” Edwards said.

Janet Baker, superintendent of Hamilton City Schools, said the district’s recruitment has shown male teaching candidates primarily major in subject-specific areas at the middle and high-school age.

She said the district “aggressively pursues outstanding male candidates” at the elementary level.

Greg Rasmussen, superintendent of Middletown City Schools, called the void of male elementary teachers “the age-old question.” Then he added: “I wish we could solve it.”

Rasmussen, who began as an elementary teacher for four years in Kansas, said male teachers typically gravitate toward “content specific” subjects, such as math, offered in junior and senior high schools.

He also said more men teach in high school because that’s where extracurricular contracts are available, allowing teachers to earn more money.

Andy George, a fourth-grade math teacher at Highland Elementary School in Hamilton, and Aleem Usman, an art teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School, understand the perceptions, but because of their love of children, they entered early-childhood education.

George worked in heating and air conditioning after graduating from Hamilton High School in 1995.

He was installing a unit at a Hamilton Catholic church, when the priest noticed George interacting with students. He asked George if he wanted to become a teacher and make a difference.

“My goal is to engage the students academically and socially and let them know they are wanted,” he said.

When people learn that George, 35, has been a fourth-grade teacher for 11 years, they’re “astonished,” he said.

Since some students come from broken homes, George considers himself “a father figure” in class. “Some of these kids need a good role model,” he said.

Usman agreed. He recalls a day this year when a female student in his class cried. He asked why. She said her uncle was shot the night before.

“She could have told one of her female teachers, but she chose to tell me,” said Usman, 28, of Dayton, who has taught for six years, four in Middletown. “These kids, at least some of them, need a positive role model.”

He added, “It’s great when they finish a project and you can see the joy on their face.”

More male teachers in early grades may be about to enter the profession, according to statistics from Miami University’s branch campuses in Middletown and Hamilton. Of the 358 students who have declared education majors, including early childhood, 106, or 23 percent, are male.