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EDUCATION REPORT — August 28, 2003: More Male Teachers Wanted in the United States - 2003-08-27

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

The National Education Association says the United States needs more male teachers. The association is the nation's largest teachers union. Last year its members approved a campaign to get more men to become educators.

The United States has three-million teachers. The National Education Association says only twenty-six percent of them are men. And that number has decreased for the past twenty years.

Today only about nine percent of teachers in elementary schools are men. More men do teach older students. Forty-one percent of teachers in secondary schools are male. But that is the lowest ever.

Traditionally, the majority of teachers in the United States have been women. As a result, the National Education Association says some Americans believe that only women can teach.

Also, the organization says teachers get less pay than people in other professions. So teaching may hold a lower social value than other jobs. The group says states with the highest pay generally have the highest numbers of male teachers.

It says Michigan has the highest percentage of male teachers, thirty-seven percent. And that state is among the top five in teacher pay.

There are other issues, too. Some men say they fear they might be accused of sexual wrongdoing. Many parents, though, say they would like more men to teach.

Yet the group MenTeach says some schools make it difficult for men. MenTeach is a national program with headquarters in Minnesota. It tries to get more men to become teachers.

A man from New Hampshire recently wrote to MenTeach. He said he has been a substitute teacher, but could not get a meeting about a permanent job.

Another man, though, has had a different experience over the past three years. Angel Mercado teaches a class of six-year-olds in the United States territory of Puerto Rico. Mister Mercado says he loves working with young children. He says his mother was a big influence -- she is a retired teacher.

A school counselor in the Washington area points out that many children have parents who divorced or never married. She says good male teachers could provide an example for children who do not have a father at home. Other educators say it is possible that some men might even be better than women at getting children to cooperate in the classroom.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.