- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2003

Anthony R. Stanley, 48, is an unusual sight at Patterson Elementary School in Southeast. He is the school’s only male teacher, having chosen a profession few men pick and some even look down on.

Mr. Stanley, however, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love teaching. It’s the best feeling when that light goes off and you know the students are getting it,” says Mr. Stanley, who teaches fourth grade. “I have taught for 17 years, and I can’t see myself anywhere else but in front of a class.”

Not only is Mr. Stanley — being a man and being black — unusual at Patterson Elementary, he would be unusual at any school.

Traditionally, teaching has been women’s work, and in public schools — even as school systems are putting money and effort into diversifying their teaching staff — that is still largely the case, according to a recent study by the National Education Association, a District-based organization with 2.7 million members that aims to advance the cause of public education.

“We know that it’s important to have teachers who represent different genders and ethnic backgrounds. … And yet minority males are almost nonexistent,” says Melinda Anderson, spokeswoman for NEA.

“The dated notion that teaching is women’s work is one of those nagging stereotypes,” Ms. Anderson says.

The study, which surveyed more than 2,000 teachers nationwide in 2000 and 2001, showed that just 21 percent of all teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade were male. Minority males were even less common. About 6 percent of all teachers were black, according to the study.

Men are better represented in middle school and high school than in elementary school, where the portion of male teachers is 9 percent.

“It’s especially in the elementary schools where we see so few men,” says Randy McGinnis, who has a doctorate in science education and is a professor of education at the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park.

“There is a stigma attached to working with young kids,” Mr. McGinnis says. “It’s a profession which unfortunately elicits low respect.”

Yet male teachers are very important, says former principal Bessie Wells, who worked with Mr. Stanley for 13 years at Patterson Elementary before retiring a few years ago.

“A male teacher can be a wonderful role model for the children, especially the boys,” Mrs. Wells says. “Many of the children we get here come from single-parent homes, and they need a male to interact with and talk to about all kinds of things.”

Male teachersas role models

Mr. Stanley knows of three children in his class of 23 students who come from two-parent households. The others are being raised by single mothers, grandparents, aunts and other relatives or guardians, he says.

“The boys come and talk to me, whether they’re in my class or not,” he says. “They want to talk about how to get along with their mother or how to treat girls — things they might not want to bring up with a woman.”

Sometimes fellow teachers ask Mr. Stanley to intervene if a boy at the school is having behavioral problems and won’t respect female authority, says Vivian Gibson, a counselor at Patterson.

“Sometimes Mr. Stanley can step in and handle a crisis situation,” Mrs. Gibson says, “and he shows the boys that it’s not a sign of weakness to treat a woman with respect.”

To Mr. Stanley, being a role model extends itself not only to conduct and being a good teacher; he dresses for the job, too.

“These kids don’t see their own parents in suits and ties every day, so I dress like this so they can see what it means to be and look professional,” says Mr. Stanley, who on a recent morning was dressed in a beige suit and yellow silk tie.

Being a good role model and making a difference in young people’s lives, however, is not always enough to attract men to the teaching profession.

“I think men want to make money, and you can’t make that much as a teacher,” says Michael Calderon, 40, who teaches social studies at Rockville High School.

He’s right, Mr. McGinnis says.

When women started entering the job market on a large scale in the 1920s, teaching became one of their most popular professions.

“They were usually not the only breadwinner, and they didn’t demand high salaries,” Mr. McGinnis says. “This fit just right in with constrained school budgets.”

The average teacher’s salary in the nation is $43,262. Local numbers are higher: The average in Montgomery County is around $60,000, says Kate Harrison, spokeswoman for the county’s public school system; it’s about $53,000 in Fairfax, says Paul Regnier, spokesman for that county’s public schools.

The District could not provide the average teacher salary, says spokesman Barrington Salmon, but the salary range is about the same as in Fairfax and Montgomery, starting in the mid- to high 30s and topping out in the mid-70s to low 80s.

This combination of what’s perceived as low salaries and low status continues to encourage those men who do go into teaching to aim for school administration jobs, such as becoming principal of a school.

“Teaching becomes a steppingstone where men stay for a few years before they go on to an administrative position,” Ms. Anderson says.

Mr. Stanley, however, says administration does not present an attractive alternative to him.

“The kids are what makes this so rewarding,” he says standing in his brightly lighted, yellow classroom full of maps, Halloween decorations and books. “And I don’t worry too much about the money. There was even a time when I would have taught for free.”

John Mahler, 43, who teaches first grade at Kemp Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, says he doesn’t care about the money, either.

Mr. Mahler is a career-switcher who spent 20 years in the computer software industry before jumping ship. This is his first year as a full-time teacher.

“I took a pretty big pay cut from $120,000 to about $40,000, but you know, ironically, that doesn’t bother me a bit,” Mr. Mahler says.

“What matters is that I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do, which is to teach. I feel like I am making a difference, that I am doing something I really care about.”

Mr. Mahler, however, is not his family’s only breadwinner. His wife is a lawyer and will be making more money than he makes, which doesn’t bother him in the least.

Men who want to be the sole provider for their family often have a different perspective, Ms. Anderson says.

“A lot of men don’t feel that teaching is a lucrative way to provide for their families,” she says.

She’s certain that higher salaries would help in recruiting more men.

Recruiting male teachers

Another way of recruiting future male teachers is by being one, Mr. Stanley says before he starts teaching his fourth-graders about being responsible.

“I hope to show them that teaching is a good and rewarding profession,” he says, while also acknowledging that sometimes it can be draining.

It can be hard to imagine that anything would be draining to this almost 50-year-old man after seeing his boundless energy. Mr. Stanley walks around the classroom constantly, encouraging and instructing.

During the “being responsible” lesson — which besides conduct teaches spelling and vocabulary — he asks a student, “What does ignore mean?”

“It means not to listen so much,” answers Anthony Boatwright, 9, dressed in the school’s suggested uniform, a yellow shirt and blue pants.

“That’s right,” Mr. Stanley says and then continues as he winds among the desks. “I love some of your answers. It shows me you’re thinking.”

Mr. Stanley has experienced firsthand what it means to have a role model, although his role model was a woman, his own mother.

As a teenager, Maxine Stanley dropped out of school to help support her growing family in rural Cambridge, Md. (Mr. Stanley is one of six siblings.)

“But she still always emphasized education. She had high standards for all her children, and we all went to college,” Mr. Stanley says.

Mrs. Stanley’s standards were not just high for her children; she had goals for herself, too.

“She actually graduated from high school with her GED the day I graduated from college,” Mr. Stanley says. “It was one of the best days of my life.”

More info:

Books —

• “Real Men or Real Teachers? Contradictions in the Lives of Men Elementary School Teachers,” by Paul Sargent, Men’s Studies Press, 2001. This book examines what men who teach elementary school encounter as far as prejudices and preconceived notions from female colleagues to parents. It also looks at male teachers as role models for young girls and boys.

• “Uncommon Caring: Learning From Men Who Teach Children,” by James R. King, 1998, Teachers College Press, Columbia University. This book offers insights into why so few men choose to teach young children and who the men are who do so. It also discusses discipline, classroom talk, curriculum, physical contact with the children and relationships with female teachers.

Associations —

• National Education Association, 1201 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036. Phone: 202/833-4000. Web site: www.nea.org. The NEA, a national association with 2.7 million members, aims to advance the cause of public education. Its recent report, “Status of the American Public School Teacher 2000-2001,” looks at issues such as average salaries and gender distribution among teachers.

Online —

• The site for Fairfax County Public Schools (www.fcps.k12.va.us) provides information about the school system, including job opportunities and salary ranges.

• The site for Montgomery County Public Schools (www.mcps.k12.md.us) provides information about the school system, including job opportunities and salary ranges.

• The site for District of Columbia Public Schools (www.k12.dc.us/dcps/home.html) provides information about the school system, including job opportunities and salary ranges.

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