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Looking for Mr. Rice

By Janet Shamlian, NBC News Correspondent

Oct. 1: NBC's Janet Shamlian previews her story for this evening's "Nightly News With Brian Williams." Click here to watch

He drifted into my home without my ever noticing. Like a new pre-teen band, his name gushes from the lips of my children the way Mantle and DiMaggio may have from my father's when he was a boy. But Mr. Rice never played professional baseball, and while he enjoys rock star status in our home, I doubt he'd make the first cut on "American Idol."

Who is this man my son and daughters believe hung the moon? I used to listen with concern. Now, I eavesdrop for the sheer delight of hearing how, armed with dry ice and methane gas, Mr. Rice ignites the science lab as he has their collective love of the subject.

In my children's school as in schools across this country, its an indisputable fact: There are more Misses and Mrses. than Misters. It's always been that way, but the disparity has never been so great, as we'll report tonight on "Nightly News." From pay to perception, the reasons are numerous, and many are what you'd expect.

Take Adam Fogolin, the 24-year-old fifth-grade teacher I met in Minneapolis. With a master's degree, a passion for teaching and the energy of a toddler after chocolate, Adam is the Mr. Rice of his school and one of only two male teachers in a building of 600 students. After pouring heart, soul and 60 hours a week into his kids, he spends weekends on a golf course. But there's no tee time for Adam. He's on the fairway because its maintenance is the second job he needs to make ends meet. It's the grim reality keeping many men and women from careers in education.

My oldest child started middle school this fall. With the excitement of new freedoms and a fresh start, there are moments of melancholy. You see, Mr. Rice doesn't teach sixth grade. Everyone says there's no one like him, but for the sake of our kids — who need role models of both sexes at school — I sure hope they're wrong.