- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

Over the next 10 years, the nation will need 2 million new teachers to fill vacancies created by a surge of baby boomer retirements and rising student enrollment. That's on top of existing teacher shortages in critical-need areas such as science and math.

Recruiters have discovered a vein of gold in second-career teachers people who for whatever reason pursued other careers before deciding to teach.

Complicating the shortage is the fact that 25 percent to 30 percent of teachers quit during their first, second or third year of teaching, said Lynn Cagle, director of the office of teacher education at the University of Tennessee.

"Second-career people have already been through some intensity in their lives, and they can accommodate that pretty well," Miss Cagle said. "They emerge far more experienced and ready to go."

When Col. Art Patterson retired from the Air Force in 1990, he did a predictable thing: He went to work for a defense contractor. But a couple of years later, Col. Patterson decided to take a road rarely traveled by retired military brass. He went back to school and became a teacher an elementary and middle school teacher.

Col. Patterson is the only male teacher at Sequoyah Elementary School in Knoxville, Tenn., where Principal Martha Hill said he was a welcome addition this year. He taught in Prince William County, Va., for six years before moving to Knoxville, where his wife, Faye Patterson, is completing her doctorate in higher-education leadership.

In his wife, Col. Patterson also had a teaching mentor. She has spent her career educating children, working first as a teacher, then as a principal and associate superintendent.

Col. Patterson knew he enjoyed working with children through mentoring programs, teaching Sunday school and his daughters' involvement in Girl Scouts. The time he spent with children was limited in those programs, he said. When teaching, he is with children for most of the day.

"There isn't another program where you can have that degree of impact," he said.

Col. Patterson said the organizational skills he developed during his military career have been indispensable, as have the abilities to work on multiple tasks simultaneously and adapt to change easily.

"The only way you can survive in a classroom is to have a high level of organization," he said. "In this, you find you have a lot more patience than you think. You have to want to do it."

On the first day of school, the children were curious about the colonel-turned-teacher.

"There's a certain respect for the military. It's kind of a mystery," Col. Patterson said. "I finally just took a day and went through the whole process."

His military experience also comes in handy when teaching social studies and history and in explaining the impacts of events in Washington.

Although rewarding, his second career is more difficult than his first.

"I find it a harder job than most jobs I had in the military," he said. "The demands are much more."

For David Boggan, teaching architectural engineering design at Byington-Solway Technical Center in Knoxville is his third career. Mr. Boggan was a firefighter in Memphis, Tenn., when he decided to go back to school and become an engineer.

He earned his college degree at the University of Central Arkansas and worked for Georgia Pacific as a maintenance engineer in Conway, Ark. The time demands of the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week plant motivated him to consider finding another job.

His wife, Joanie Boggan, a teacher herself for 26 years, suggested her husband look into teaching.

After going back to college again to earn his education specialist degree and taking the National Teachers Exam, Mr. Boggan became a teacher in 1989. The cut in pay was sizable when he took his first teaching job in Little Rock, Ark.

"It's more than 'there's more to life than pay,' " he said. "I usually try to help aspiring engineers and architects. I think I get that enjoyment of seeing them be successful."

Rick Bise moved to Knoxville from Virginia Beach to take over a photography business. A chance phone call to the studio in 1984 changed the course of his career.

The caller said there was an opening at Fulton High School to teach photography in the vocational program. Mr. Bise had a baby at home and had grown weary of the frequent travel to shoot school photos, weddings and other events.

He got the job at Fulton and taught photography there for 15 years.

"I've loved it ever since. I just enjoyed the students. These kids, they almost keep you young," said Mr. Bise, 48.

Last summer, he became a specialist at the adult education program housed in the former Knoxville High School. His job is to supervise the second and third levels of the General Educational Development equivalency diploma program.

He drives in every morning from his Cleveland, Tenn., farm, where he and his family raise miniature horses.

"For the most part, all the people I'm dealing with now want to be here," Mr. Bise said. "I love it every day that I'm here. It's satisfying in a whole different way."

• Distributed by Scripps Howard.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide