Layoffs Forcing Teachers To Rethink Careers

By Staff
August 17, 2009

Thousands of teachers have been laid off as school districts struggle to slash their budgets, causing some to move where there is more demand or to switch careers entirely.

The Washington Times reports that according to the National Education Association, about 34,000 teaching jobs will be lost this year. And Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, noted that the effects of such layoffs are severe.

"Teacher layoffs equal eliminating classes and/or increasing class sizes, both of which are terrible for kids instructionally," she told the Washington Times. "You can't move forward on reform if you have pulled out the supports and the basic instructional plan that exists right now. "

Julie Van Winkle, a middle school math and science teacher from Los Angeles, was forced to register as a substitute teacher after being laid off. "I cried when they took that picture," she said of her substitute identification card photo. "It's very demeaning. You kind of have expectations as a teacher who got high evaluations, who has never had a problem with an administrator or parent, who works well with colleagues. . . I never thought I would be in a situation where I couldn't be a teacher."

Other teachers have been forced to pursue different careers. The Wall Street Journal reports that Lauren Sikorski will start studying for a career in occupational therapy next spring after being laid off teaching special education math at a Carteret Middle School in New Jersey.

"The plan my whole life was to be a teacher," she told the Journal. "Now I'll still work with children, just in a different setting."

Audrey Day, who taught fourth and fifth grades for three years in San Diego, opted to enroll in law school after being fed up with a lack of job security. Although she was never laid off, she was informed five times that she might have to change schools and was told once that she could be laid off.

"Ultimately I worked far too hard through an undergrad degree, credential and master's not to know month to month if I'll have a position," she told the Journal.

Despite the current challenges, experts expect that careers in education will ultimately rebound. "I think the long-term outlook is good," said Ken Hansing, a career counselor at the University of Georgia, who was quoted in the Washington Times.

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