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Phoenix Forward

Teaching as a second career gains popularity

Teaching as a second career

If standing in front of a classroom and commanding the attention of 25 highly distractible middle school kids sounds daunting, meet new teacher Cheryl Jones.

“I have a teenager of my own,” says Jones, who has a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix secondary education program, “so nothing surprises me. I don’t have any rose-colored glasses.” What she does have is more than 20 years of real-world career experience to share with her students.

That comes in handy, especially when they ask if their English homework is relevant to their futures as professional athletes and pop icons.

Jones is part of a growing trend in K–12 education — teaching as a second career. Rather than becoming teachers out of college, one in four new teachers is considered a “delayed entrant,” realizing passion for education later in life, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics on the 2007–2008 school year.

Jones’ fellow classmate, Gunnery Sgt. Roberta Petrokovitch, is as self-assured about her future as a teacher as Jones is, though Petrokovitch hasn’t completed her student teaching. That’ll happen next year, after she retires from a 20-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Rather than becoming teachers out of college, one in four new teachers is considered a 'delayed entrant,' realizing passion for education later in life.

“I’m very comfortable in front of a class,” the mother of two says, noting that she already has experience training hundreds of new recruits and colleagues and knows what she’s getting into. “The last thing I’ll ever be is intimidated. As a Marine, we know better,” she says.

Like Jones, Petrokovitch graduated this year with a master’s degree in secondary education. And like most second-career teachers, she expresses a deep passion for educating. Her dream is to teach in Africa.

How can older professionals realize their emerging aspirations to teach?  One way is to find a master’s degree for teacher preparation that does not require any previous education courses or teaching experience.

Being able to progress academically and begin the next chapter of her professional life with a master’s degree in hand is what appealed to Jones. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at DePaul University in 1990 and then got a certificate in legal studies, becoming a paralegal for a while. More recently, she worked in the insurance industry as a customer service representative.

But she found true, personal satisfaction teaching Sunday school classes each week, noting, “I finally realized that teaching is what I enjoy most.”

 

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