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Career Changing


In my last job, I helped to raise over fifty children from infancy through school age. I was a family child care provider for 12 years. That was a very satisfying job – exhausting, rewarding, and fun.

My two children grew up and left home for college and the rest of their lives. My husband Stephen loved the little kids and helped with the business. Still, he finally asked, “If our kids are grown, why is there still a high chair in our kitchen?” I took it to mean it was time to consider finding another job. It’s hard to enjoy an empty nest when it’s repopulated with little ones every morning at 7:30.

Ideally I would have liked to work from home but without the toys, equipment, client issues, and legal liabilities that a home-based childcare business involves. I could do freelance or consulting work: but, like most of us, I needed to earn a steady income to contribute to the household.

So when the newspaper announced a “Career Changers” night at the county’s Board of Education, I decided to go. I listened to Board administrators, who basically said that in order to teach, one had to have a degree in education. Since mine is in anthropology, I was getting ready to leave – when someone else mentioned that the county had a new program to recruit special education teachers. The need was great, and the funding was in place to provide intensive training and master’s degree-level college classes, so my “wrong degree” was less of a problem. I went home with a name and email address to send a resume to.

The Resident Teacher Certification (RTC) program is an opportunity for non-education professionals to become teachers. This program recognizes that many people have the skills and desire to become teachers, but lack the credentials required by most systems. Under this program, which I joined in June 2004, new teachers take three classes over the summer while working in the extended school year program as instructional aides. My cohort of 16 included people who had some experience with education, like me. It also included a financial advisor/pizza delivery person, a publisher’s rep, a restaurant server, a retired computer programmer, and a social worker among the group. People with very different knowledge and skills. After our intense summer, we began teaching in Fall 04, while continuing to participate in seminars and college classes.

This program succeeded – all but three of our cohort have continued, and successfully survived the first year in the school system. The RTC members have received great reviews from principals, and the county started an RTC-II cohort this year. Why did this program succeed? First of all, those who joined the program were highly motivated to becoming special education teachers. Secondly, the program’s director, Dr. Tom Conner, was highly committed to giving his teachers the support needed to become successful. This included not only training in educational methodology and theory; but mentoring, seminars, frequent visits to our schools, and a lot of hand-holding. Most especially, he offered praise to encourage us, and passed on the praise he heard from our administrators. When we were successful, we knew it, and that provided motivation to push through the exhaustion. It would have been very difficult to succeed as a career changer without this kind of guidance, and I am grateful for it.

In Year 2 of this program, I am still taking college classes, but will finish my master’s Degree in Spring 06. I am teaching secondary special education, and hold certification in English and Social Studies content areas. I have taken four Praxis exams, and passed all. In return for the help I’ve gotten from the RTC program, I have committed contractually to teaching four years in Special Education for the State of Maryland.

I have taught students new information and strategies for success, usually only a day or so after learning content and methods myself. I am part of an education team at Arundel High School that includes both young and older “new” teachers. I hope in another year or so no one will know that I started teaching later in life.

As a second year educator I am confident. I am excited every morning when I walk into the school, and I hope to spend the rest of my working days in the classroom.

I enjoyed my previous career in child care. Now I'm enjoying my new position as a public school teacher. This career, too, is exhausting, rewarding, and fun. Perhaps even more so.


I too am a career changer. After many years in development, and a few years off with my two children, I entered the educational field. This is my 6th year teaching, and I'm really enjoying it! My kids can't wait to take a class from Mom. They have a few years. Anyway, I am also in a position of taking the Praxis subject exams and was wondering if any of you have input on the best preparation for the tests. Thanks!

YOU GO, Hanne!

At 46, after a 20-year career in corporate marketing communications, I am just beginning the second and final year of my M.Ed. program. I will be 47 when I receive my degree and begin looking for work. After a dozen years of volunteer work with gifted & talented teens, this will finally realize my second-career dream of actually getting paid for giving back to the G/T community which gave so much to me when I was "growing up giftie."

People are always asking, "But WHY? By the time you crawl up this whole different ladder you'll be ready to retire!" Nonsense. Educators can teach and administer and advise -- and most importantly to me, PUBLISH! -- well into their 80s, as did my university professor father and many of my other academic mentors. Worst case: even the fresh young age of 65 (traditional retirement) is still practically another 20-year career away!

The best way to learn is to teach...and if it is indeed true (as I firmly believe!) that "the day you stop learning is the day you start dying," then we second-career teachers may yet have the last laugh.

At 49 I have started my 4th year of teaching special needs students at a career & tech high school. This is a second career for me, actually a 3rd career, if you count the time raising my two children. It took 2 and 1/2 years to finish the college requirements for my license and to pass the PRAXIS 2. I have one more class and I will have my masters in career & tech education. It's been really difficult and expensive, but I have enjoyed every minute. I enjoy getting up and going to work everyday and I come home exhausted, but happy. My teenage sons have seen me work to get this degree for a job I love. I believe it has motivated them to continue their education after high school. When I tell my students I am still going to school too, they don't understand why. I explain that we're never too old to learn and some of them nod in agreement. I have students that are 20 years old. It's hard to think about retirement, even as tired as I feel, but like someone else said, 20 years in, I'll only be 65.

I right there with you Hanna. I have run a home child care/preschool for the past 15 years, so that I could rise my own children. My oldest is in high school, our son in middle school, and our youngest in elementary school. While still running a full time day care on the day side, I go to school two and three nights a week to finish the degree I started twenty years ago, and add to an associates certification in education. So from potty training toddlers to college finals, and philosophy papers, I feel your pain, I know your pain, I know your joy! When I am finished, the oldest will be on her way to college, the next will be in highschool, and the youngest in middle school, and I will be at the elementary school. All of these notes are just encouragement to me. I had my cake and ice cream too - because I did get to raise my children at home, and I look forward to a wonderful career, and "a retirement plan"- sometimes I feel like I am starting so late, but actually, I started long ago, I'm jsut taking my time finishing!!!

Good luck to all "Changers"

L. Phelps
Dallas, GA

Very happy for you and for all 40+ careerchangers into Education that you found your bliss. I am not so lucky. It bombed. Still, what you learn is invaluable whaterver you decide. Be blessed.

Congratulations. I'm older than you and just starting to teach special ed in a high school, 3rd career. My students are mostly BD's and they are wearing me out, challenging to say the least. You all seem so sure of yourselves, now tell me you have problems too.

I can't believe it. I thought I was the only new 49 year old special ed teacher. And it is only my 2nd year teaching. I am at a elementary school where most of the teachers are in their 30's. I was at the High School last year, but I chose to try the younger kids because I like to teach Reading. I am almost through with classes, but still lack 2 Praxis. I too need some advice on those tests. The past 4 years have been the best. I love my job. I love my kids. My mother asks me all the time when I am going to be through with school and I kind of shrug my shoulders. I love going to school. She is one of those traditional career people who went to work at age 18 at a major insurance company and retired with 45 years of service. I have loved reading all your postings and they have given me much inspiration to carry on!

Dear Mrs. Denney;

I truly enjoyed reading the stories about people trying or succeeding in teaching as second careers. I am trying to find that alternative program to enter teaching. I am 51 years old with a BS in Occ. Ed. and a MA in HRDV. Plus I have a cert. as A Sub-Teacher, and I teach as a Adj. Prof. for two colleges. But I can not step into a secondary or elem. class room. And we don't have a alternative program in this area. I live in ILL. Any help with ideas on what I can do would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for our time.

Mike Ellis

To: Mike Ellis

Mike there are so many alternative programs to enter into the teaching profession. I'm on the West Coast, not familiar w/Ill. Contact your local universities, get on line and google Alternative routes for certification--know some can be at least started on-line. You probably have most of the credits. Don't give up. One I can think of off hand is "Teach America" in which you teach & take cert classes all at the same time, but can be done in one year. Post your e-mail & I'll contact you if I can find more information. I'll check back here in a few days. A.Mitchell

Three phrases should be among the most common in our daily usage. They are: Thank you, I am grateful and I appreciate.

Three phrases should be among the most common in our daily usage. They are: Thank you, I am grateful and I appreciate.

great post, very interesting comments, made me think things over

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