Teaching is a good career move for someone looking for more fulfillment from their career, or someone who is passionate about a particular subject.
Steve Brown wasn’t always an educator — he used to be a trial lawyer. But years ago he left his law partnership in favor of striking out on his own to do something he was more passionate about. Something very different. “I set up my own independent curriculum teaching business, where I went around to different schools and taught mock trials based on literature in 3rd– to 12th-grade classrooms.”
Eventually, his love for teaching led him to join the Seattle School Board, then to become a parent volunteer in his children’s classroom, and then he finally got his teaching certificate and started to teach high school. From there, he became an assistant principal and then began working at City University, where today he runs the alternative routes to teacher certification program.
“I didn’t get my teaching certificate until I was 50 years old,” Brown says. “I’m an example of the alternative pathway to becoming an educator.”
Today, Brown loves helping other people like him, who may have started their careers out on different paths, find their way to teaching.
Many people probably think that if they didn’t study education in undergrad or get certified to teach right after college that they’ve already missed the boat. But with a teacher shortage in Washington state, there are actually many degree and certification options that you can look into. No matter what your career background, or undergraduate degree, you can apply for a Master in Teaching, for instance. If you are already working in a school district in another capacity or you want to go into any of the areas where there are teacher shortages (special education, English language learning or math) there are options to take a special fast-track certification program.
Brown thinks that there are many people out there working in different fields who would make great teachers. “One of the ultimate keys to being a good teacher is loving kids and wanting to work with and spend time with them,” he says. “That doesn’t have to mean little kids. Some people definitely connect more with high school or middle school students, as some do with elementary.”
Teaching is also a good career move for the type of person who is looking for more fulfillment from their career, or someone who is super passionate about a particular subject, like science or math, and loves to share how those subjects can actually be fun with others.
Think about your school experience
We all have experiences with school and teaching. Thinking about these experiences can help someone figure out whether teaching would be a good fit for them, says Brown. For instance, ask yourself: Did you love school growing up? Did you used to want to become a teacher but then got on a different path at some point? Did you used to play school with your friends? Have you recently become a parent of a school-aged student and enjoy volunteering in the classroom? Was school difficult for you but you figured out how to overcome those hurdles?
If you said yes to any of these questions, then teaching might be a good fit for you, says Brown.
“One of the great things about teaching, as someone who has taught and hired and trained teachers, is that teaching isn’t a decision you have to make and stick with at age 21 or 22,” he says. “Some of the best teachers around these days are those who came at it as a second or third or fourth career.”
Use your experience
Brown believes that he was able to be a successful teacher because of his career experience before getting his teaching certification. And he’s seen countless other teachers who have done the same.
If you’re thinking about a switch, Brown suggests thinking about what you’ve experienced so far in your career and how it can apply to teaching. “Let’s say you’re a marketer, so maybe you have experience with spreadsheets and math, or maybe with communications and writing, those skills could help you with your understanding of certain subject areas,” he says.
But don’t discount the other kinds of experience you probably have as well. “No matter what profession you started out in, you probably interacted with people who weren’t all the same. You probably experienced failure of some kind. Teachers work with students from all backgrounds, and they experience difficulty and trials just like any other profession. That maturity and wisdom will help you navigate work as a teacher too.”
Learn from your struggles
A big career switch later in life can be exciting, but it can also be tough. Brown says he sees students come through his program all the time who end up feeling totally overwhelmed at first, or maybe they struggle in one of their certification classes and wonder whether it was truly the right move.
“But that’s actually one of the most inspiring times of all,” Brown says. Working through those feelings is one of the best ways to prepare for teaching. “Because they will have students in their class someday who feel the exact same way, who think they’re totally a lost cause because they failed one test or have something going on at home and you’ll be able to tell them, ‘I’ve been there and I figured out how to move on. You can, too.’ ”
City University of Seattle is accredited through the doctoral level. It is dedicated to serving the working adult and transfer student and has been ranked in the top 50 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in the nation seven consecutive years 2013-2019 by U.S. News & World Report.