by Greg Gelpi - Staff Writer - Augusta, GA

On Sept. 12, 2001, Andre Mountain submitted his resignation and booked a flight home.

The terrorist attacks a day earlier jarred him, and he no longer wanted to sit in a cubicle of a Merrill Lynch office in New Jersey, performing the tedious task of verifying a long list of stock prices before a sale could be finalized.

The attacks reminded him how short life is, he said, and he wanted to serve the interests of the community rather than those of a corporation.

“Teaching was always nagging at me in the back of my mind,” Mr. Mountain said.

Both of his parents are educators, so he enrolled in the Professional Standards Commission’s Teacher Alternative Preparation Program. He now teaches at Monte Sano Elementary School, where he is the only male teacher, something he hopes to change as one of the state’s TAPP ambassadors.

As an ambassador, he speaks to school systems and universities about the TAPP program and to community groups about becoming a teacher. He is especially pushing for men to change their career paths and become elementary schoolteachers. Today he will update the commission on his efforts.

Teaching has proved to be a more fulfilling career, Mr. Mountain said.

“No one at Merrill Lynch stopped and thanked me for clearing their trade,” he said, adding that parents thank him regularly.

As a teacher, the rewards come each time he sees a child achieve, Mr. Mountain said, recalling, as an example, a former pupil with speech problems who is now enrolled at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.

“You can’t do it for a paycheck,” he said. “This is by far more meaningful, more long-standing.”

Many of the children lack a male role model, so he becomes a brother or a father to them, Mr. Mountain said. As a role model, he wants boys to realize their potential to become more than a rapper or a professional athlete.

In 2006, the number of male teachers hit a 40-year low, according to the National Education Association. In Georgia, male teachers accounted for 18.9 percent of teachers, one of the lowest percentages of any state.