In a city where many households are without male role models, children are also facing a lack of male leadership in the classroom, as only one in four district teachers are male.The ratio is even more skewed at the elementary level, with some schools having only one or two male teachers on a staff of 20 or more educators.
The shortage of men in the classroom is a salient issue for Gilroy, where one in 12 households is female-owned and does not have a husband present. This means that about 3,550 local kids are unlikely to have a male presence at home.
“It’s so criminal for elementary children to not have any male element in their life,” said Joe DiSalvo, principal of Brownell Middle School. “Males do things, have life experiences that are different from females.”
Having a teacher that understands those different experiences can boost the child’s ability to learn, he said.
For boys, male teachers sometimes represent a stronger presence of authority, phrase issues in more accessible ways and provide a comfortable outlet for talking about sex and violence, the National Education Agency reports.
However, many men are reluctant to take up positions at schools, especially with younger children, because males practicing childcare does not fit into typical gender roles, the agency report continues.
The younger the students, the less likely they are to have a male teacher. According to the district’s fall numbers, men accounted for only one of 24 teachers at Las Animas Elementary School, two of 22 teachers at Eliot Elementary School and four of 24 at Rucker Elementary School.
These ratios are not uncommon in the United States. In fact, Rucker, with 17 percent male staff, is nearly double the national figure for elementary schools.
Secondary schools typically see a rise in the percentage of male teachers and Gilroy is no exception. Both middle and high schools in the district have higher percentages of males on staff, but generally lag behind the national average of 35 percent.
The one area that does not seem to be particularly unbalanced is the district administration. While only 132 of the 516 district teachers – 26 percent – are male, 6 of the 14 principals – 43 percent – are men.
However, the same trend toward secondary education applies – only one of seven elementary school principals is male whereas all three middle school and two of the three high school principals are men.
Much of this is a matter of pay, said DiSalvo.
“I wanted my son to become a teacher, but he wanted to make more money,” he said.
Instead, DiSalvo’s son went into finance services.
“He’ll be 25 in January, and he’ll probably be making more money than me next year,” he said “And I’ve been in the professional field for 35 years.”
To counter the existing unbalance in the teaching population, DiSalvo is trying to hire more males at his school to achieve an equal number of both men and women. His school’s staff is currently about 60 percent female, he said.
In the next hiring round, when choosing between men and women for the about half a dozen open spots, “If they’re equally as qualified, I’ll err on the side of balancing the gender,” DiSalvo said.
The equality in the school is an attempt to give boys what they might have missed in elementary school, he said.
“They need to see the male perspective,” DiSalvo said. “It adds another dimension to their life.”