Family And Consumer Science Field Attracts Men

Family And Consumer Science Field Attracts Men

Detour into stand-up comedy made Nolan Henderson second man to graduate in family and consumer science at K-State.

Nolan Henderson was the first man to major in family and consumer sciences at Kansas State University. In 2011, he became the second to graduate.

He took six years off from his college education to follow his dream of being a stand-up comedian, but returned to graduate last year. He now teachers at Free State High School in Lawrence.

Family And Consumer Science Field Attracts Men

Henderson is part of the changing face of family and consumer sciences, a profession that will soon have more job openings than qualified teachers, according to Sally Yahnke, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education. Her students get degrees from the College of Human Ecology, while fulfilling their teacher education requirements through the College of Education.

Yahnke predicts new graduates will find a job easily, even in today's tight job market.

"Within the next six years, Kansas will need about 1,000 family and consumer sciences education teachers. At the current graduation rate, we will be short nearly 700 teachers," she said.

Nationwide, schools will need more than a half million teachers by 2018, according to the Kansas Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Yahnke said that some school districts that eliminated family and consumer sciences education because of budget cuts are bringing it back.

"Family and consumer science classes teach students to cope with everyday life. It's hard to argue against the need for those skills," she said.

The first man to get a family and consumer sciences education degree from K-State was Paul Musselman, who got his second bachelor's degree -- his first was in hotel and restaurant management -- from K-State in 2010. He teaches at Wichita East High.

In the classroom, topics and demographics have changed. The family and consumer sciences course work is totally integrated, Yahnke said.

"Students today wouldn't think it is a girl's class. Subjects involve nutrition, personal wellness, parenting, consumerism, personal financial planning and sustainability," Yahnke said.

Henderson agreed.

"The world is changing and how we live and do things changes almost daily," he said. "It is amazing what some of our family and consumer science teachers are doing at schools throughout the state. I'm hoping to become a huge part of that someday."

High school and middle school programs have changed dramatically from baking and sewing to dealing with all facets of daily life. Yahnke said today's family and consumer sciences teachers cover many current hot topics, such as obesity prevention, time and money management, bullying prevention, personal and family financial literacy, and communication.

"Our students are equipped to tackle issues that plague families," she said.

These issues are not gender-based. In most middle schools, all students take family and consumer sciences, Yahnke said. In high school, classes are often at least half male. In some classes -- especially food classes -- more males enroll than females. But family and consumer science teachers are still overwhelmingly female.

Henderson teaches Interiors, Human Growth and Development I and II, Intro to Human Services, Family Studies, and Nutrition and Wellness.

His career path was shaped by two current university faculty members.

"To make a long story short, Dr. Kelly Welch and Dr. Farrell Webb both teach classes -- which I took and loved -- in the College of Human Ecology, which is basically the ground work for family and consumer sciences. That's why I chose family and consumer sciences. I get to teach and coach it to high school kids."

The funnyman experience made him a better teacher, Henderson said, adding that after his years as a traveling comedian, job security attracted him to teaching. He'd also recommend family and consumer sciences teaching to other males.

"I love it. But you have to have a pretty open mind to enter the field and have some thick skin," he said.

Comedians seem to have thick skins. Henderson's YouTube video from his stand-up days makes the rounds at the high school where he teaches, and students leave comments such as "my favorite teacher!" and "…this guy gave me an D- on my test!"

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