Teacher glad to be positive role model

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 29, 2003

Terrance James teaches a sixth-grade class at Warren Central Intermediate.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[9/29/03]A teacher in public schools said more men should be teachers to provide positive models for male students.

“Some students come from a single-parent family and haven’t had a lot of exposure to men in their lives,” Terence James, a sixth-grade teacher at Warren Central Intermediate said he has found.

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James was a teacher’s assistant last year, and this is his first year to head a classroom, but he’s already seeing the impact he’s having.

“A lot of my students speak to me. They’ll ask me questions about certain rules,” James said.

He pointed out that many have had questions about tucking in their shirts a requirement of the districtwide school dress code for the first time this year.

“They know me, and they’ll see me coming and start tucking in their shirts,” he said. “All I have to do is give them a look.”

Of the 550 teachers in the Vicksburg Warren School District, 468, or 85 percent, are women. Only 82 are men.

That doesn’t mirror enrollment where figures show males in a slight majority among the 8,958 students. The local rate for male teachers is also less than the national rate of 25 percent.

“The teaching profession has traditionally been primarily viewed as for females, particularly in the elementary setting,” said Superintendent James Price. “Over the past 10 years, more and more men are getting into the elementary schools.”

Price said more men have become elementary teachers partly because of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Kindergarten Cop.”

“At one time it was considered taboo for men to teach anything but high-school courses,” Price said. “That social convention has changed partly because of that movie.”

Schwarzenegger plays a cop who goes undercover in a kindergarten classroom in the 1990 movie.

But both Price and James said they believe a deterrent for some men to pursue careers in education is the salary.

“I would think most men feel like they have to provide for their family,” he said. And trying to rear a family on a teacher’s salary would be tough, he said.

Another reason James thinks more male teachers in classrooms would be helpful is to make boys more aware of their career options.

“A lot of these kids want to be football players and basketball stars,” he said. “I had the same mentality, I wanted to be the next Magic Johnson.

“Having more males involved would open the doors to these young men to show them there are other things besides sports.”

To encourage more men into the profession, James suggested increasing pay, promoting the profession more at the high school level and offering incentive bonuses to male teachers.