by Tonya Papanikolas - Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Over the past two decades, the ratio of men to women teaching in the classroom has steadily declined. Now, the National Education Association says the number of men teachers is at a 40-year low.

The UEA said it believes Utah is right in line with that sliding trend. Fewer male teachers are going into education, and those who do are leaving the profession at a higher rate than women.

David Bullock is a kindergarten teacher at West Bountiful Elementary School. He says many people are surprised that a man would want to teach kindergarten.

David Bullock, kindergarten teacher: “In the young grades, most people think that’s almost like babysitting.”

Nationwide, only nine percent of elementary school teachers are men. But Bullock loves the job.

David Bullock: “They’re so excited to learn, and it makes me excited to teach.”

In the Davis District, 30 percent of teachers are male. That’s higher than national statistics, where just 21 percent of teachers are men.

David Bullock: I think one of the issues probably is money. I think a lot of people say ‘I don’t know if I can make it.'”

Many men may be the sole breadwinners for their families, making the pressure high for them to earn more money.

Barbara White, principal, West Bountiful Elementary: “And because for the most part other professions pay more.”

In 2000, female teachers earned 16 percent less than women in other jobs, but the number is higher for men. Male teachers earned 60 percent less than college-educated men in other professions.

Kim Campbell, president, Utah Education Assoc.: “It says something about the profession. It shows that the profession has declined in respect, in compensation.”

And educators say the declining number of men in the classroom hurts the students.

Barbara White: “A male teacher brings a different set of role-model images.”

David Bullock: “Especially the younger boys, they come up to me and they want a hug or something. That helps me as an educator, thinking I may be the only daily male role model for some of these kids.”

Educators say increased salary will be a big part of changing this trend, along with thinking of ways to make the job more attractive to men and then actively recruiting them.