We've reported for years on the shortage of male teachers, particularly in elementary and middle schools.  Nowhere is the need felt more, than at low-income, urban schools, where many students have few, if any strong male role models in their lives.  One Chattanooga school has made it a priority to recruit male teachers.

They're called the "Gladiator Team" at Woodmore Elementary School.  The team includes twelve male educators doing their part to boost test scores and promote good behavior among the school's 325 students.  It's something you don't see at most elementary schools.

Principal Cheri Guerdon said, "Children of poverty are not exposed to male role models, so we have brought in some wonderful gentlemen who are educated and professional."  

Guerdon is in her fourth year at Woodmore.  She's been working hard to attract and recruit male teachers and behavior specialists, based on research that shows elementary children need male authority figures in their lives.  Administrators knew boys would benefit, and have since learned girls do as well.

Assistant principal Talley Caldwell, who attended Woodmore as a child, said, "With the young ladies, to have someone watch after them and to hold the door for them, means the world to them."

The men set good examples with they way they dress, teach and lead.  They provide a father figure for children who are often lacking one at home. Assistant principal Rickey Jones says his life is enriched as well.  He was thrilled to learn that first grader De'Zayviun Watkins wears a tie each day, to look more like his hero: Mr. Jones.

Jones said, "I compare it to the light bulb going off in a child's head, that lets you know you have reached them. It's great to reach one child, but it also lets me know there's still work to do, because I have more kids to reach out to."  

Principal Guerdon says the influx of male role models has changed the climate and culture at Woodmore.  She never expected to have 12 men in the house.  She says the best recruiters for additional male help, has come from the men themselves. "Once you have a few, they start recruiting each other.  They know others who want to help, and they share with each other how rewarding this can be." 

She says Hamilton County Schools central office directors Leandrea Ware and Sheryl Randolph have also worked hard to recruit and hire Woodmore's male staff members. She says it's hard to hire, and keep male professionals, because many of them can earn more money in fields outside education. Still she says, with the proper vision and determination, elementary and middle schools can find great male role models to help guide children.

Woodmore's team includes:  Assistant principal Talley Caldwell, Assistant principal trainee Rickey Jones, exceptional education teacher Vincent Dean, PE teacher Montrell Besley, chorus teacher Marcellus Barnes, ISS assistant Sherman Franklin, 5th grade teacher Carey Garrett, social worker John Hale, science interventionist William Ladd, full-time sub Gabriel Sandefur, behavior specialist Carlis Shackelford, and music teacher Gerald Souther.