“Retiring” to Teaching: Good Idea or Not?

I’m all for second, third, and more acts in life and work.

I’m all for second, third, and more acts in life and work. Heaven knows, I’ve had quite a few myself. But I’m curious to know what you think about this career transition.

I recently read a story in the The Wall Street Journal about a woman named Dora Currea.

The 59-year-old has an advanced degree from MIT and spent many years working for an international development bank. She traveled the world and lived in places like Ecuador. Then she retired in 2010 and went to Colombia for a few years, working for a nonprofit.

Last year, Currea launched a third act—as a full-time teacher. She has just started her second year at High Point High School in Beltsville, Maryland, teaching newly arrived Spanish-speaking students.

After completing online coursework and taking an exam with Teach for America, she participated in a “boot camp” where TFA’s new recruits lived in dorms for six weeks, teaching in classrooms, preparing lesson plans and taking education courses. “It was like college again, only I was at least 30 years older than everyone else,” Currea said.

And that, as you know, wasn’t even the tough part.

Teach for America, the nonprofit that trains non-education majors (generally in their young 20s) to become teachers, asks for a two-year commit to a job in a high-need school. But with such a tremendous shortage of bilingual teachers, Currea clearly was a great candidate.

“I was petrified the first day, looking out at a sea of faces almost daring me to teach them something.”

Currea admits that she goes home after work exhausted. But after her two-year contract ends, she says she wants to continue teaching at High Point or in another school.

At a time when Teach for America is losing some of its luster: corp members and alumni complaining about isolation and inability to succeed; surveys and articles questioning teaching effectiveness; trouble attracting top recruits, looking more to talent like Currea may be a good solution.

I’m curious to hear what you think about Teach for America and other programs like it and their quick path to credentials. And I’m even more curious to know what advice you’d give a friend about starting a career in teaching in ones 50s. Would you recommend it?

In a future column, I’ll turn to the topic of second acts for teachers. What are you thinking? If you’d like to transition into a new career, even part time, how are you preparing?

Bernadette Grey

Posted by Bernadette Grey