Topeka Capitol Journal - Topeka, KS, USA

Kansas makes the honor roll when it comes to the rate of male teachers in classrooms. Leading the nation with a 33.4 percent male teaching staff, Kansas is trailed by Oregon at 31.6 percent and Alaska with 31.5.

Why so many?

There’s no easy answer.

But Brenda Dietrich, superintendent of schools for Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437, is delighted with the state’s performance. She likes the balance, she said, that the large percentage of male teachers brings to the classroom.

USD 437 boasts 106 male and 336 female teachers districtwide.

But most of the guys stick to secondary levels, leaving elementary primarily to women. Dietrich attributes this clustering to men’s affinity for coaching, clubs and specific interests.

“Many times, a lot of our secondary teachers love the content – history, math,” she said. “An elementary teacher is more generic. You just find secondary teachers gravitate toward particular content areas.”

With a class of 20 third-graders in his charge at McCarter Elementary, Ethan Rodehorst is a little harder on his fellow men.

“I think a lot of males are afraid of being given the stigma of elementary education and maybe being thought of as weak,” he said, adding he has never caught any flak for entering a female-dominated field.

“When males think about education, they think they don’t want to deal with little kids all day,” he said.

Rodehorst acknowledges the worry that even at the head of the list, Kansas’ male teacher percentage is still so small.

Does it matter?

Ron Harbaugh, spokesman for Topeka U.S.D. 501, has no idea why Kansas has made the grade so high.

“I was surprised we were No. 1,” he said, nothing that the opposite has occurred with school principals, a field formerly owned by men and now largely held by women.

As for its teachers, 501 has 8 percent male in elementary and 34 percent at the secondary level.

Harbaugh said he views the ratio as a positive thing, especially in the potential for role models.

“It makes me a commodity, that’s for sure,” Rodehorst said, “because there are so few of us – especially in elementary education. There’s a lot of nice things said by parents and staff about having male role models in school. There’s also a lot of pressure put on males because they’re so few of us (in schools).”

He never asks to be that often-lacking male adult figure, he said, but it frequently pans out that way. But mentoring children as they transition from second to fourth grade is satisfying for him.

At that age, he said, most still enjoy coming to school.

But at the heart of teaching, which Dietrich labels as a calling, is the relationship between teacher and child.

“It really depends on personality,” she said. “If you’re a warm, caring, nurturing person who’s approachable, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. You’ll be a great teacher, and kids will respond to you.”