Throughout college, Jenkins saw very few fellow male elementary education majors. And now in his sixth year teaching at the Sikeston R-6 Fifth Grade Center, Jenkins remembers only one other male teacher, who has since moved on from the building.
"And we had different schedules so I really didn't get to know him," Jenkins said.
Jenkins is the only male elementary classroom teacher in his building. He's one of two male elementary classroom teachers in the district.
Although there are more male special class teachers for subjects like physical education, music and art -- Sikeston has four at the elementary level -- a male classroom teacher is becoming increasingly rare.
According to the National Education Association research, just 24.9 percent of the nation's 3 million teachers are men. And over the last two decades, the ratio of men to women in teaching has steadily declined.
The percentage of male teachers in elementary schools has fallen regularly since 1981, the NEA reports. About 9 percent of elementary school teachers are men. In addition, the percentage of males in secondary schools has fluctuated over the years, but now stands at its lowest level of 35 percent. Cindy Griffin, assistant superintendent of elementary education and special services for Sikeston R-6, said the district doesn't get many male applicants at the elementary level and she's not sure why.
"As long as I can remember, there have been very few male teachers at elementary schools," Griffin said. "Both Lee Hunter and Morehouse (elementary schools) recently celebrated their 50th anniversaries, and we looked at all of the photos they had back then. I don't remember seeing many male teachers at all."
Griffin said she didn't know why the numbers were so low.
"Unless it's that men tend to go into more of an area of concentration like science or math at the secondary level," Griffin said.
Jenkins shared a couple reasons why males may shy away from elementary teaching.
"I guess maybe some think only women are supposed to be teachers, especially in the elementary. And money is a big issue. There's not a lot of money in teaching," said Jenkins, who also acts as the building technology liaison.
In Missouri, 21.4 percent of the 66,476 elementary and secondary teachers are males, according to 2005 data provided by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Jefferson City.
Forty-five of the 784 elementary education majors were men at Southeast Missouri State University in fall 2005, according to Southeast's Institutional Research Center. The numbers are higher for secondary education majors. In fall 2005, 36 of the 145 majors were males.
Donna Smith, principal at A.J. Martin Elementary in East Prairie, said she wished the school would receive more male teaching applicants.
"We have sent out an ad on the Internet with DESE's Web site and applied for elementary applications and not one sent back by a male," said Smith adding the school has received about 15 applications from people all over Missouri.
Smith said she thinks it would only be a good influence for students to have a male teacher.
"I think we need more male role models in the elementary grades. Right now at this early age, as far as the school environment, students only see women and there other experience is from families. Other than family, students need to have male role models," Smith said.
Jenkins said he's aware he may be the first male influence in some of his students lives, but he doesn't let it pressure him.
"I don't think of it that way," Jenkins said. "I don't let it put a lot of stress on me."
For Alisia Reed and Lucas Houchin, both students in Jenkins' class, having a male teacher is something they're happy about.
"He's like sort of a typical guy, but he is fun and nice patient, and he does fun things," Alicia said. "He's a little less understanding than a woman, but he understands."
Lucas said he thinks Jenkins is a little stricter than a female teacher and he thinks students can talk a lot more in class with a female teacher. But Lucas is also very happy to have a male teacher, he said.
"He gets more into a the subject than a female teacher. I can go to him with more different problems. He takes good care of you."
Jenkins admitted he doesn't know why he became an elementary teacher. "I like kids," Jenkins said. "And in high school, I did cadet teaching. I enjoyed it, and I guess I became hooked."
Jenkins said he was also influenced by his teachers all throughout his schooling.
College may have prepared Jenkins for being a minority in his workplace, it didn't truly prepare him for the realities of teaching, he said.
"College doesn't prepare you to deal with the parents or the paperwork or even just the stress of it all," Jenkins said.
But in the end, it's all worth it, said Jenkins, who grew up in East Prairie, where lives with his wife, who is a second-year teacher for East Prairie R-2 schools.
Meanwhile, Jenkins said he will continue to be a classroom teacher although he does have a master's certificate to be an administrator.
"I enjoy my job," Jenkins said.
And besides, Jenkins is picking up on a few things from working in a predominantly all-female environment.
"If there's one thing I've learned from working with women it's that you can't be embarrassed."