Workers From Other Fields Help Fill Teaching Void (330)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Don Campbell was ready to pursue a long-time dream after 16 years with the Tennessee Press Association, including six as TPA’s executive director.

His new goal — to help high school students learn to say, “Mira mama, saque una ‘A’ de Espanol!” Or, “Look mom, I made an ‘A’ in Spanish!”

So in December Campbell walked away from a successful career at the press association to prepare himself to become a teacher.

“I always had an interest in teaching and I developed an interest in Spanish,” said Campbell. “I decided to put the two together.”

Campbell, now studying at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to earn a teaching certificate, has learned that his mid-life decision to become a teacher is not uncommon.

Dr. Thomas George, teacher education specialist in UT-Knoxville’s College of Education, said about 25 percent of the college’s 300 teacher education candidates entered the program after leaving jobs in other fields.

A decade ago only about 10 percent of the students had worked in other careers, George said.

“We’re seeing more people who have been working in other types of jobs now coming back to be teachers,” George said. “Many say they always wanted to teach but could not afford to be a teacher until now.

“They may have opted for higher paying jobs in the past. Now their life circumstances have changed, their children have grown and they want to do something that they feel is beneficial to society.”

George said education graduates fresh out of college often choose higher-paying jobs in other fields, such as management, rather than teach.

Older students who leave other jobs to become teachers help make up for that loss, he said.

“They have taken up some of the slack that we have lost from the more traditional student who graduates in education but goes into another field,” George said. “Where we may have lost a traditional 18-year-old who comes into education, we have gained some of that back from second and third-career people.”

Contact: Dr. Thomas George (423-974-6639)