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Phoenix Forward

Second chance: Thomas Lee finds a new career in the classroom

Thomas Lee finds a new career in the classroom

Learning that your longtime employer is closing up shop and moving out of state would be a crippling blow for some. But for Bay Area middle school teacher and STARS grant recipient Thomas Lee, MAED, it was a golden opportunity.

“Prior to teaching, I was an automobile insurance claims adjuster,” says Lee. “My office was being relocated out of state and I chose to stay here in California to be near friends and family. At the time I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I’d always been told that I would be a good teacher, and my wife — who is also a teacher — encouraged me to enter a program to earn my California teaching credential.”

Lee believes that getting his Master of Arts in Education/Elementary Education from University of Phoenix was his destiny, and with good reason. “The Bay Area Campus happened to be starting a new MAED program just as my insurance office was scheduled to close,” says Lee. “It must have been fate!”

The move to a teaching career has proven to be a good one for Lee in many different ways. “I can easily say that teaching is the most rewarding job that I have ever had,” he says. “You get a great feeling knowing that you are able to help children learn. But the best part is when former students come back and visit you and tell you what an impact you made on their lives.”

I can easily say that teaching
is the most rewarding job that I have ever had.

Based on his own experience writing successful grant applications, Lee offers this advice to his fellow teachers when it comes to applying for grant funds. “Be honest, don’t be shy, but don’t be greedy,” he says. “Make sure that whatever you ask for is going to be used by the students, and not you. Many grants get turned down when you just ask for things like laptops.”

Lee used the STARS grant (which stands for Supplies for Teacher Alumni and Resources for Students and is administered by University of Phoenix) monies he won to procure squid-dissection kits for his middle school students for the first time ever, which he believes will get his students hooked on science like never before.

“The students had a wonderful time learning about squid and their digestive system,” says Lee. “If you can capture a scientific mind at a young age, they will become science lovers forever.”