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Marshall educators hope increasing male employee workforce will help students adjust

By Joe Holloway
Feb. 2, 2013 at 10 p.m.

According to the most recent data published by the National Education Association in 2010, males make up approximately only 17 percent of the teachers at the elementary school level.

Contrast that number with the 35 percent of teachers they make up at the middle school level and the 51 percent of teachers they make up once students get to high school, and it's not hard to see why many students could have a hard time adjusting to the expanded role of the male teacher as grade levels progress.

"A lot of your authority figures in the junior high and high school are males," said said Jason Black, who is in his first year as assistant principal at William B. Travis Elementary School after coaching and being an assistant principal at Marshall High School. "Maybe you've got a young man who has been the only male in his family, he's the little man of the family, and now he's hesitant to listen to that male figure."

Thanks to Black, and the seven other males currently working there, students at Travis will hopefully have fewer of those barriers as they progress through their education.

"That stability of having a male role model, I think it's a big deal for these young men," said Black. "Just to see how to conduct yourself and how to act in a way toward becoming a young man.

"I think it's a really big deal that more districts and more schools might want to take advantage of."

In addition to Black, Travis has special education teacher Thomas Allen, interventionists Beau Hodges and Fred Kennedy, Wiley College student teachers Marquis Wright and Brandon Walker, P.E. teacher Michael Barnard and custodian Al Washington.

Principal Amy Dickson said she can't recall a time when she's had so many working at Travis all at once.

"It's been mostly female," she said. "I've had a male PE teacher the entire time I've been a principal and I've had maybe one or two male staff, but never eight and I have total confidence in this eight."

Like Black, she said she thought having the added male presence on campus will help the students as they get older.

"They're high-fiving and they're bumping knuckles," she said. "They're working to teach them how to be young men and I think it's great because when they get into the secondary stages of junior high and high school there's a lot more male figures.

"I think this starts them off on the right process."

Obviously, not all of the eight are teachers, but Ms. Dickson said people like Washington, the head maintenance worker at Travis, give the students a positive influence as well by talking with students about working hard and making good choices.

"At the end of his day, he may pick up a student and for 20 minutes that student will help him build school pride by picking up trash, wiping down tables," she said. "The kids love it. He'll use that opportunity to talk to the students about making good choices and about what hard work will do, how far that will carry you in life.

"We want everyone at Travis to feel like they're part of this team, but he's really a vital part of this team."

Washington said that, though it might not be his primary job description, it's something he's happy to help with.

"I don't mind at all," he said. "Some people might be like 'oh that's not my job,' but I'm happy to help in any way."

According to Washington, it's all about communication.

"You have to communicate with them," he said. "But it makes me feel good. I can help them out a lot and I really enjoy it. They seem to look up to me."

All of Travis' male employees try to get on the weekly basketball games. Black said they try to use as an opportunity to give the school's young men something to shoot for during the week.

"We want them to be self motivated, but we want them to have something to shoot for," he said. "It helps the teachers give them an incentive during the week to look forward to something."

Washington, who's in on the game as well, said all of the students and the teachers huddle up after each game to discuss how they can better themselves throughout the next week.

"We say if they're good and behave we can do it every Friday," he said. "Basically it's just telling them to keep up the good work."

Ms. Dickson said the game is great, but that it's more than just a bunch of guys playing basketball.

"There's so many things they learn from that," she said. "But the most important part is at the end of the game they huddle up and they set their goals for the week and what they want to do to improve for the next week to be able to come and play.

"It's not just about the game; it's about building that relationship and making that connection."

Overall, she said she's just really seen the added male presence be a good thing for the students.

"That male presence and that authority figure helps set a tone for the young men on this campus and gives them something to look up to and something to admire," she said. "I've just seen it be a very positive thing for our elementary."



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