by Kristy Kircher - KIFI - Idaho Falls, ID, USA

Male teachers are on the decline, and needed more than ever in our local elementary schools.

According to the National Education Association the number of male school teachers is hovering at a forty year low. And locally numbers are even lower then that.

Superintendent Chuck Shackett of District 93, he says in grades kindergarten through six, there are only twenty male elementary school teachers in the districtl.

That’s only about 4 per cent of the total teachers in those seven grades.

Arnold Schwarzenegger may have said it best in the movie kindergarten cop, elementary school teaching isn’t always a picnic, especially for a man.

There’s stereotyping, low pay, and a classroom full of kids, that are sure to keep you on your toes.

“They keep me young, they keep me young by far,” says kindergarten teacher Brian Brown.

Brian Brown is one of seven new male teachers to hit Bonneville School District this year.

That makes the total man count up to twenty at local elementary schools.

“It’s a rare breed out there in today’s world,” says Superintendent Chuck Shackett, District 93.

Common stereotypes, like the one put on Schwarzenegger in the movie, may be part of the problem.

Often times if a man expresses tenderness, or too many traits associated with being female, parents might assume he’s gay (Newsweek, Sept. 17, pg. 44).

Another problem is that grown men showing affection for small children can be accused of being pedophiles (Newsweek, Sept. 17, pg.44).

“I never come across any of the negative stereotypes. Occasionally I get you’re my first male teacher and being in kindergarten I fall into that, but everything else has been positive throughout my career,” says Brown.

Male elementary school teachers are often times the bread winners of their families, making things tricky if they want to work in education.

The starting salary for teachers is about $30,000.

“That’s why I think fewer males get involved because the initial paycheck isn’t that high. The initial concern is feeding their family and having a higher standard of living,” says Shackett.

Shackett says that’s one reason why seeing men teach is so special.

They’re not doing it for the paycheck, but rather because they love what they do and they want to make a difference.

“I would like to see more men in there because it’s a great profession and if you like working with kids it’s the way to go,” says Brown.

Women as teachers have been the more popular choice since 1890, but school administrators say it’s becoming a more relevant issue as boys fall behind girls in graduation rates and demonstrate more difficulties with reading and writing.

Educators all over are taking new approaches to address the shortage.

One example being, this summer Indiana University offered a seminal course on men and education.

And the M.E.E.T. program, Men for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, is meeting more often to discuss male-specific teaching problems.