Cathy Hayden

Jim Smallwood and Bill Hardin are rarities.

The two men, both social studies teachers at Byram Middle School, are the only male instructors many of their students have ever had.

They’re in short supply nationwide, but even more so in Mississippi. New 2005 data compiled by the National Education Association show Mississippi has the lowest percentage of male teachers in the country.

The number of male teachers hit a low nationally in 2005, comprising 24.5 percent of the public school teachers. But those numbers show Mississippi has the lowest rate in the country in 2005 at 17.4 percent.

Current Mississippi data show the percentage of male teachers to be 18.4 percent: That’s 6,227 men out of a teaching force of 33,793.