by Carmen Ramos Chandler - California State University - Northridge

California faces a looming teacher shortage, and, in particular, a deficit in the number of men interested in working in elementary education.

Hoping to help alleviate the problem, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded California State University, Northridge a $385,651, three-year grant for a teacher-preparation project aimed at increasing the number of men — particularly African-Americans, Asians and Latinos — who want to work in elementary education.

CSUN elementary education professors Shartriya Collier-Stewart and David Kretschmer are leading the Future Minority Male Teachers of California Project, which will eventually involve five other CSU campuses in urban settings — Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, San Diego, San Jose and East Bay — across the state. The goal is to improve the pipeline for male teachers of color throughout the California State University system, at the same time increasing the number of male mentors and role models for elementary school-aged children of color — and perhaps having a positive impact on the effort to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color.

“Who is teaching in their classrooms can have a profound effect on the thinking and the future of our young people, particularly for males in elementary school,” Kretschmer said. “Every classroom is about half female and half male. Yet, only one of every 10 teachers is a male, and the numbers get even more stark when you talk about elementary school teachers. What we are trying to do is right that imbalance as much as we can. Not only do we want to recruit more males into the teaching profession, but really provide them support once they get there.”

During the first two years of the grant, the project will work with local high schools, community colleges and nonprofit organizations that work with young men — including Men Teach, a national nonprofit with a goal of increasing gender and racial equality in the teaching force; Troops to Teachers, a U.S. Department of Defense program that helps eligible military personnel begin new careers as teachers in public schools; National Compadres Network, a national organization that encourages the positive involvement of Latino males in the lives of their families, communities and society; and the Breakthrough Collaborative, a national effort to develop the next generation of diverse teachers — to encourage men to consider careers in teaching.

In addition to the intensive recruitment efforts, the project will identify mentors and advisors for the future teachers who can appreciate the unique situations that male elementary teachers may encounter.

“The research has demonstrated that people are suspicious of men who work with elementary school-aged children,” Collier-Stewart said. “Men and women often communicate differently, and many male teachers interact with families differently than female teachers do. If we can provide mentors and ways for male teachers to share their experiences and learn from each other, I know we can tear down the obstacles that hold men back from entering the profession.”

During the first two years of the project, CSUN educators will be working with colleagues at CSU Dominguez Hills and Los Angeles to identify as many effective resources as they can to encourage men to enter the teaching profession and then to stay. The effort will then expand to include CSU East Bay, San Jose and San Diego State during the third year of the grant.

“If we’re successful, we’d like to see our model spread to the rest of the CSUs, and then perhaps the nation,” Collier-Stewart said. “Male teachers can be amazing role models for their students — male and female.”

Kretschmer said that society has to confront its stereotypes in assigning gender to certain jobs, include that of being an elementary school teacher.

“It we put more men of color in as teachers at the elementary school level, that changes the perspectives of the male students, including their perspective of what they think they are capable of in the classroom,” Kretschmer said. “The teacher serves as a role model that they can look up to — and for male students, an educated, articulate male teacher just opens the possibilities of the power that an education can help you become.”