Elementary education was listed as the 6th largest major at BYU last year, yet only eight out of the 328 students currently enrolled in the program are male.
Males make up as little as two percent of the students in the elementary education major.
Mike Tunnell, chair of BYU’s Teacher Education Department, explained the large gap is expected for the major.
“It’s always been that way historically. If you go back, working with children was something that women did from a societal point of view,” Mike said.
Elementary education has long been a field predominantly taught by women, according to a report by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The statistics from that report started in 1980 up until last year and show that females have always had at least a 65 percent majority over male teachers since the 1980’s.
Gary Seastrand, a director at the McKay School of Education who worked for nine and a half years as an elementary school teacher, provided his thoughts on the lack of male presence in the elementary education major.
Gary said he believes salary keeps a lot of males from joining this major. He said he thinks a lot more males would be teachers if it paid more and if they thought they could raise their families on it.
“The other thing is, socially, it’s not as valued as it ought to be,” Gary said. “There are people who told my son who wants to be a teacher, ‘Why would you do that? You could be so much more,’ and that’s a sad commentary on how teaching is viewed in our social system.”
Collin Seastrand, Gary’s son and a senior majoring in elementary education at BYU, shared his thoughts.
“I don’t think men are aware of how good a career education is,” Collin said. “Education has developed a stereotype to be a women’s career where you don’t make any money, and it’s not true at all.”
Collin comes from a long line of male educators that ranges back to his grandfather. He said his dad had always been able to support his family with a career in education. He also mentioned that while his friends may tease him about not making that much money, he remains confident there is plenty of money to be made in this field.
Many students in the elementary education major said they have heard it is easier to get a job in elementary education as a male. Dr. Joseph Backman, who is in his third year as principal at Foothill Elementary in Orem, Utah, and also spent many years as an elementary teacher himself, agreed.
Joseph said he thinks if you are a good teacher, it is absolutely easier to get a job as a male because of the lack of males in the field. Joseph is one of three male employees in the entire building at Foothill Elementary, with the others being a school aide and custodian. He said he would love to have more male teachers working at his school.
Mike also commented on the need for more male elementary teachers.
“The idea that boys need male role models has long been discussed and thought of as a valuable asset,” Mike said.
Joseph said he has always been able to provide for his family as an educator. He has earned a Ph.D. in education leadership and said he has loved his decision to teach elementary education.
“I love it. I love little kids and their enthusiasm and excitement about life,” Joseph said. “Most males that go into education go into secondary education, but I think if more people realized how awesome little kids are, how fun they are and how you get to teach all subjects, there would be a lot more that come and do so.”