People are often surprised when Le Minh Hien tells them what he does for a living.

Hien, 35, has been working at the city’s District 3 Kindergarten for 10 years. He is one of only a handful of male kindergarten teachers in the country.

According to statistics from the municipal Department of Education and Training, of the 12,800 kindergarten teachers working during the 2008-09 academic year, only 29 are male.

“Whever I have a day off, I really miss the little kids from my class,” said Hien.

Hien went through a pre-school teacher training programme almost a decade ago with several male friends, but he was the only one to continue with the work.

His day begins at 6am, when he arrives at school and begins preparing for the kids, who arrive at 6.45am.

The day continues with meal time, lessons and games.

A normal day of chasing after kids is exhausting enough, but Hien also stays up late every night to draft a lesson plan for the following day.

“If I didn’t love the children this much, I couldn’t keep doing my job,” Hien said.

Though he has been married for two years, Hien has not thought of having children of his own because he is too busy with his work.

Nguyen Thanh Luong has been vice principal of the Ho Chi Minh City’s District 11 Kindergarten for six years. His wife is also a kindergarten teacher.

Luong says that among the 40 people who took the training course with him, no one else has pursued a career in kindergarten teaching but him.

“Some tried to find work that was easier and some quit after a few years of teaching,” he said.

What he loves best about his job is that parents often ask him for advice about how to talk to their children.

“The job has taught me the patience to talk to children. I have also learned how to deal with different situations which come up in the course of schooling,” he said.

“Less people are choosing to study the pre-school field, especially males. Meanwhile, female teachers are too busy and have to work hard,” said Luong.