Eye on Education: Men in the classroom

By: Ryan Loyd Email
By: Ryan Loyd Email

We continue our Eye on Education. Last week, we talked about staffing issues at some schools in our area. As it turns out, the economy is working to some school's advantage. We focused on Oklahoma and the Durant Intermediate School. Principal Tod Harrison says he has a surplus of applicants this year, and he believes the high price of gas is forcing teachers to stay in Durant, rather than drive to Texas or elsewhere for jobs.

"It’s costing money, and it's not affordable anymore," Harrison says.

But qualified teaching candidates are getting harder to come by. A national survey shows the teaching profession is suffering major shortages, and schools are seeing fewer men in the classroom.

Mr. Perry's sixth grade classroom has all the typical tools for learning, but the one thing that might be a little atypical is Dennis Perry himself.

"To me the greatest thrill is looking at the kids and wondering where they're going to be in 20 years and if you had an impact," Perry says.

Perry is just one of three male teachers at Callisburg Elementary out of a sea of dozens of women teachers.

"He has a different way to teaching. It's fun, helps us learn," student Austin Wagner says.

Jim Yeargan and Heath Turnbow are the other two men on Callisburg Elementary's teaching staff.

"I’ve always known I wanted to teach," physical education teacher Heath Turnbow says.

They are part of a rare breed: men in classrooms of elementary-aged kids, where the majority of teachers, by far, are women.

"I enjoy coming everyday, getting kids in shape, build self-esteem. It’s like i'm a kid again," Turnbow says.

But fewer men are now doing what Mr. Perry, Mr. Yeargan, and Mr. Turnbow did-- taking jobs teaching young children. According to the National Education Association, among all teachers in the U.S., only 24 percent are men. It's a 40-year low, and that number may not be getting better anytime soon.

"I think if you ask most elementary students, what they want to be when they grow up, there would be very few boys that would say they would be teachers, and that's a shame because they can make fabulous teachers," Callisburg Elementary assistant principal Karen Lee says.

One theory for the shrinking number of men in the classroom is salary.

"The fact of the matter is you don't go into education for the money. You go into it because you love kids," Callisburg Elementary principal Rusty Clark says.

Clark has been in education since the late 1970's and says education from both men and women is beneficial because of the different perspectives it brings to the classroom.

"I went into education because I can't imagine doing anything else," Clark says.

But unless more men decide to make education their career education, experts believe that perspective will continue to dwindle.

"A lot of kids need a good male role model aside from their parents," Turnbow says.

But for the three men who teach at Callisburg Elementary, their jobs have never been more important

"They can't get enough positive reinforcement," Turnbow says.

"It’s like leaving a legacy," Perry says.


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