Don't blame Jim Rome if sometimes he feels a little out of place.
"Most every meeting I go to is all women and me," the 58-year-old first-grade teacher said.
Rome is one of a rare breed of men - those who decided to become not just teachers but elementary teachers.
"There's not many," said Rome, who has taught at the elementary level for 34 years, including the last 11 years at New York School, 936 N.Y. "I did see one male elementary teacher once, somewhere. But I didn't know who he was."
A check of classroom teaching staff in the Lawrence school district shows the city's 15 elementary schools have a total of 35 men teaching in them, compared with 260 women.
That means men make up only 12 percent of the elementary teaching force, according to Mary Rodriguez, the district's executive director of human resources.
Lawrence isn't unique in having few men teaching in its schools.
According to the National Education Association, the number of male teachers now stands at a 40-year low: Of the nation's 3 million teachers, only 24.9 percent are men. That's pretty close to what it is in Lawrence. Out of the district's 611 classroom teachers, 148 are men, or 24.2 percent.
Nationally, the percentage of male teachers in elementary schools has fallen from a high of 18 percent in 1981 to 9 percent today - a figure that is lower than Lawrence's 12 percent.
"There has been a push to try to get more males into elementary," Superintendent Randy Weseman said.
However, Weseman said when teaching positions come open, the district seeks the best person.
"We don't set out and say we're going to hire a male or a female. It's all pretty much open," Weseman said. "You certainly like to have some male role models in the elementary."
Weseman, who started as a high school teacher himself, said he took the track most male teachers take - the secondary level.
"The common career path is that males tend to gravitate more toward secondary because they tend to want to coach (sports) more," he said.
However, women still far outnumber men even as high school teachers. At Lawrence's four junior highs and two high schools, 62 percent of the classroom teachers are women and 38 percent are men, according to Rodriguez.
At Kansas University, about 125 to 150 students enter the School of Education each year, said Marc Mahlios, department chairman of curriculum and teaching.
Of those, between two-thirds and three-fourths are women, Mahlios said.
Traditionally, for women, elementary teaching jobs have been viewed by married couples as the family's secondary income source, he said.
"Many teachers are also mothers," he said. "One of the things that is attractive about an elementary teaching job is the fact that they have summers off when their children do. So there's no conflict between their work and that of their children."
For men, that's not as much of an issue because they generally are not the family's primary caregiver, Mahlios said.
"In married couples, there's been the view that men are the principal income within the family," he said. "It's also been socially viewed that a secondary income with teaching is acceptable. That's clearly changed with the women's movement, but not entirely."
What does the future hold for men in teaching?
Shortages of teachers in math, science and technology subjects at the secondary level probably will mean more men will seek out those jobs, Mahlios said.
"Those tend to be fields, especially math and science, that have attracted more men than women," he said.
Men gravitate toward teaching at the university and secondary levels because the environment is more academic, he said. In contrast, the environment is more nurturing at the elementary level, Mahlios said.
"For many males, the environment is decidedly more feminine than masculine," he said. "And I think that's a very real issue."