by Angelica Blenich - Canada

Jim Hopkins strolls through the playground outside of Stuart Baker Elementary School. The sounds of children playing fill the air as school buses roll into the parking lot and students prepare to head home for the day.

Hopkins spots a young boy walking next to the slide with a large piece of driftwood in his hands.

He makes his way over to the student.

“Do you think this is a good choice or a bad choice?” he asks.

“Bad choice,” the student answers quickly while handing over the wood.

Before Hopkins can discard the log the young boy has skipped off, heading back to his friends.

No argument made, no yelling heard, not a single tear shed.

For Hopkins, it’s just another day on the job. For the students at SBES it’s just another sign of a teacher who for many has become a role model.

The athletic director at Stuart Baker, Hopkins is one of three male teachers at a school that goes from junior kindergarten to Grade 3. As a male teacher in a primary school Hopkins is a rare breed.

According to a 2008 Statistics Canada report, males account for only about 28 per cent of all teachers. At the primary-junior levels females account for 90 per cent of all teachers in Ontario.

At Stuart Baker there are three male teachers, including Hopkins, making up approximately 25 per cent of the faculty body.

Hopkins has been teaching for over 20 years, 18 of which have been spent in a primary classroom.

For Hopkins, the decision to become a teacher came after a slew of circumstances that led him to a lifetime of education.

“I realized university wasn’t for me and that I wasn’t ready for it,” said Hopkins, “so I became an education assistant for a year and that was my introduction. I loved it.”

Educated as a high-school geography and science teacher, Hopkins transitioned to primary grades after a dose of reality.

“I fell in love and got married and needed a job,” said Hopkins. “I was teaching in an outdoor ed centre for five years but my income was very low.

“I moved to Haliburton after I got married and took a job in Gooderham at the elementary school.”

Dan Lee, the music director at SBES, is in his 31st year of teaching. He has spent almost half of his career teaching in primary-junior schools.

“I pretty much decided at the end of high school I wanted to be a teacher,” said Lee.