Career-Switchers Attracted To Teaching

By Staff
July 31, 2009

More people are choosing education as a second career, and most are opting to receive training through fast-track programs which place teachers in classrooms quickly.

The New York Times reports that according to the National Center for Education Information, more than have of the 60,000 new teachers hired last year came from another line of work. The majority took advantage of fast-track programs such as Teach for America, a training program which places new educators in needy schools.

"For a lot of professionals, joining T.F.A. is a way to put their idealism into action," noted Grant Besser, who heads a Teach for America team which aims to recruit professionals one to five years out of college.

Such was the case with Paula Lopez Crespin, 50, who gave up a career in banking and took a $32,000 pay cut to teach math and science at Cole Arts and Science Academy in Denver through Teach for America. She told The Times that she simply "couldn't stomach" her job anymore, and wanted to do "something meaningful with my life."

"This is beyond what you get paid for," Crespin noted. "You have to really want to make change, or you'll regret it quickly."

This year, 35,178 people applied for 4,100 slots in Teach for America--a 42 percent increase over last year. While just 2 percent of the organization's recruits are over 30, that might be changing: Applications from career changers and graduate students grew 81 percent last year.

Teach for America is by no means the only teacher training program seeing growth. The Washington Post notes that enrollment at a career-switcher program for teachers at Virginia's community colleges increased by 20 percent, while a Maryland resident teacher program increased enrollment by 40 percent.

Sam Rigby, 36, is one such example: He worked as a research scientist in a Portland laboratory and will soon become a physical science teacher at Charles Hart Middle School, located in DC, which suffers from low performance and discipline problems.

His career change comes with the help of the New Teacher Project, a program which recruits career-changers and college graduates to work in inner-city schools. Like Teach for America, the program places its recruits on a fast-track program designed to get teachers into classrooms quickly.

Some claim that this is the best route for potential teachers. "If you get rid of the hoops and hurdles, you can get some fantastic people to come into teaching," said Michael J. Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a D.C.-based education think tank, who was quoted in the Post.

The New Teacher Project estimates that its retention rates in the first four years are slightly above average for urban school districts. And the program, as well as Teach for America, has succeeded in creating significant competition for the toughest jobs.

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