Some students can only imagine their teachers lecturing about chemical reactions or analyzing the build-up to World War I. However, several teachers have had careers outside of the classroom.
Before she taught, physics teacher Karen Davis was an engineer. Davis soon felt that the corporate world of computer disc drives was unpromising and returned to graduate school.
Though Davis intended to pursue biotechnology, she said that “the job market for it wasn’t that good” and then considered teaching.
Davis’ mother, who was a teacher, warned her about the workload and pay issues. Nevertheless, Davis prefers her job as a teacher to her old one.
“I never got much of a sense of accomplishment [in my old job],” Davis said. “Once you … finish a product, it’s just gone and then you have to start the next [one].”
Due to her earlier career, Davis said that she strives to emphasize “the practical application of science” in the classroom.
For a time, English teacher Jonathan Kwan interned for Youth Speaks, a non-profit organization that emphasizes the development of literary arts. Kwan planned curricula for poetry workshops and worked in an English outreach program.
“Kids who weren’t typically engaged in English [became] really passionate about creative writing,” Kwan said.
This energy encouraged Kwan to become an English teacher, something Kwan never imagined himself doing when he was in high school.
“I consider teachers to be on the front line of facilitating social change,” Kwan said. “Youth Speaks opened my mind to the possibilities of what English could be and what it should be.”
Chemistry teacher Danielle Paige used to work for Applied Biosystems, a company that builds DNA-sequencing machines.
When Paige realized that she most enjoyed “talking to customers about science and teaching people how to do science,” she decided to become a teacher.
As a result of this career experience, Paige believes it is important for students to “understand, reference, read and utilize the information they’re given” rather than memorize it.
Paige enjoys being a teacher because “as much as it is hard, there is so much energy and joy [she gets out] of helping students make connections” in the classroom.