by Jacki Rovner - Arizona State University

If you’re a male in a classroom, you’re probably a student and not a teacher.

The number of male teachers has reached an all-time low, according to the National Education Association, whose numbers indicate only 1/4 of the 3 million teachers in the United States are male.

According to the most recent ASU Institutional Analysis, the national decline in male teachers is mirrored in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education.

The 2006 report shows 527 men are enrolled in the school, compared to 2,011 women.

Arnold Danzig, the interim associate dean for teacher education at the Fulton college, said the reason many men don’t enter the field is because historically teaching has been a women’s profession.

But Danzig said he believes it is important for men to overcome stereotypes for the sake of the students.

“Men definitely add something to teaching,” Danzig said. “Some kids are better nurtured and mentored by women, while some are better nurtured and mentored by men.”

Additional reasons men typically do not enter the field includes low pay and the idea that men don’t want to be around children, said Bryan Nelson, the founder of the – a web site that provides information regarding male teachers.

The need for male teachers at the elementary-age level is glaring, said Staci Maiers, senior press officer for the National Education Association.

According to the NEA, only 17 percent of the 1.6 million elementary school teachers are male.

Jason St.Claire, who graduated from ASU in May, is one of only four male teachers at Desert Palms Elementary School in Glendale.

As a choral and general music teacher who teaches around 700 kids a week, St.Claire said he recognizes the need for male teachers in elementary schools.

“Men need to be there, especially to be role models for the younger boys,” he said. In sixth grade, St.Claire had an influential male teacher, who helped him realize he wanted to go into the same profession.

“He had a big impact on me,” St.Claire said. “He was very supportive of my decision, and very intriguing.”

St.Claire said he is conscious that with the declining number of male teachers, stories like his will disappear.

Not only is it important to have male teachers to mentor schoolchildren, it is also critical for the faculty at a school, he added.

“When I arrived at the school, the female teachers were so excited to see a male teacher and welcomed me with open arms,” St. Claire said.

Another reason men tend to shy away from teaching, especially in elementary education, is because of the idea that some believe men who want to be around little kids must have pedophilic tendencies, Nelson said.

“Because men have harmed children at school in the past, some people view men as suspect in the classroom,” Nelson said. “But it is more likely for kids to be harmed at home by a family member than it is for them to be hurt by a male teacher.”

St.Claire feared people would question his motives when he left a well-paying, but “miserable,” job as a trainer at a credit card company to go back to college for an education degree in the hopes of working with elementary-age children.

“I was scared at first, everyone is always concerned about males in elementary education — when a guy hurts a child at school, it is all over the news,” he said. “But it has been a very positive experience, the parents are excited and have been receptive.”

St. Claire said the cut in salary wasn’t enough to prevent him from pursuing a job he could be happy with.

“I love waking up and going to work in the morning,” he said. “I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I have job satisfaction and because I’m happy.”