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Becoming a Teacher: Tips From Career Changers

These Lesley University alumnae followed their passion and became teachers, after they had already worked in other careers.

Answering the Call to Teach

They say teaching is a calling. Some of us discover it young. For others, the calling comes later in life, after we’ve discovered that our skills and talents could make a difference in the lives of young learners.

If you’re thinking about leaving your career to become a teacher, you’re probably equally excited and anxious. You might have some concerns about leaving a job you know to embark on something new. After all, this endeavor will take time and resources. You’ll want to know if it’s worth it.

Here are some tips from Lesley University alumnae who followed their passion and became teachers. They had earned their bachelor’s degrees in a non-teaching major. They succeeded in other careers, then went back to school for their master’s degrees in education.

All are teaching in Massachusetts now, and they haven’t looked back.

Tip #1: Talk to other teachers.

Find ways to talk to teachers in different types of schools about their work.

Erin Parisi ’07, a graduate of our M.Ed. in Elementary Education program, had been working in the business world for 15 years—mostly in marketing roles—before pursuing her passion of teaching.

But first, she did her research.

“I talked with my teacher friends and voiced my concerns. What if I disliked teaching? What if I couldn’t find a position at the grade level I aspired to teach? What if I couldn’t handle the discipline issues? They advised me it would all be okay and not to expect to know everything upon graduation—it takes years to figure out teaching and become truly skilled,” she says.

Erin now teaches third grade in Lowell Public Schools, an urban setting and her dream placement. “I have no regrets about my decision to become a teacher. I love what I do and love the students I teach each year,” she says.

Tip #2: Try it out.

Substitute teaching is one way to see if a teaching career is right for you. Research the requirements for substitute teachers in the types of school districts and at the grade levels where you want to work.

“You need to make sure that you want to spend your days with children or teenagers,” says Susan Lewis ’13, a TV and website producer for 20+ years for the PBS science series NOVA. Susan’s love of educating people about science and seeing the impact teachers had on her daughters inspired her to become a teacher when she was in her forties.

Following the advice of veteran teachers, Susan subbed at a few middle schools before deciding to become a teacher. She earned her M.Ed. in Middle School Humanities through Lesley’s Collaborative Internship Program—a teacher residency program—at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is now in her fifth year of teaching middle school science at the Nashoba Brooks School in Concord.

“Teaching science is a dream job for me. All my life I have been fascinated by how science can unlock secrets of the natural world, and now I get to explore the wonders of science with my students,” she says.

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Tip #3: Research different programs.

There are many education programs out there—from standard early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school programs to more specialized degrees in reading instruction, special education, or teaching through the arts.

Kate Harney ’12 left a career in advertising to earn her master’s degree in Elementary Education through Lesley’s Collaborative Internship Program at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (BB&N) in Cambridge. She recommends that potential career changers explore their options. “Do your research to find the program and the setup that makes the most sense for you, whether you do part-time, a collaborative program, etc. There are many avenues for getting your master’s in education,” she says.

Kate now works at Birches School in Lincoln where she co-teaches the school’s kindergarten and first-grade class.

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Tip #4: Follow your passion and go for it.

Once you realize teaching is your calling, these three alumnae have one more piece of advice—go for it. You won’t regret it. Plus, the skills you’ve learned in your current role will help you in your teaching career.

“I’m incredibly happy I became a teacher,” says Kate Harney. “I love my job and my school. I’m constantly evolving professionally. I recognize I could be making more money had I stayed in the corporate world, but my day-to-day quality of life is much higher. I appreciate the flexibility my schedule allows me, and my work has real, tangible meaning,” she says.

Susan Lewis echoes that feeling. “As a TV and website producer, I translated what I learned about science into stories that people could understand and enjoy. There are similarities between that work and what I do now with students. One key difference is that I get the joy of directly working with young people. I see the impact that I have on students, and it’s very gratifying.”

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