After working hard for several years as a teacher, for a variety of reasons you may reach the conclusion that it’s time to try something new. You still love kids and care deeply about education, so you might ask yourself, “How can I stay committed to this cause while working in a non-teaching role?”
WorkMonger focuses specifically on matching JobSeekers with non-teaching roles in the education sector. Since the transition from the classroom to a non-teaching career path can be tough to navigate, we reached out to top leaders in the education space who have personally been through it and asked them to share their stories with you.
Welcome our friends to the blog!
- Danielle LaSaint: Houston Implementation Manager, Everfi (an education technology company)
- Jayson Wilkinson: Social Studies Professional Development Manager, District of Columbia Public Schools
- Megan Aghazadian: Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Texas Education Agency
Walk us through your career. How did you end up where you are today?
Jayson: During college, mentors in my Honors program provided me with a series of volunteer and student teaching opportunities that allowed me to step outside the box and push myself to rethink what I thought I knew about urban education. I’d like to think that this helped me to leave college with the confidence to teach and lead in public schools in Columbus, Newark, and Washington D.C. The desire to be surrounded by like-minded educational leaders led me to my Education Pioneers placement and eventual home in Central Office for DC Public Schools.
Megan: In college, I wasn’t planning on teaching, even though I enjoyed working with children, but I learned about Teach For America and thought it would be a good way to have an impact on the lives of kids. I taught middle school for four years in New York City, and then went on to study education policy. Since then, I’ve worked in strategy and policy-related roles with school districts, a CMO, and now a state education agency.
Danielle: I taught middle school for 3 years, then I wanted to be in a place that had an even broader impact. I spent 3 years in a talent capacity for a charter network and I am now supporting teachers and classrooms in digital curriculum.
What prompted you to pursue a position outside of the classroom?
Jayson: I couldn’t help but feel a little conflicted about the manner in which the people around me were thinking about families and students with similar backgrounds to mine. Because I knew what it felt like to witness a single mother pushing the limits of a school system to ensure her family had access to the same resources as those with means, it felt inappropriate to not use my voice to support as many families as I could with similar challenges. District-level leadership had the promise of putting me in the “room where it happens”.
Megan: I taught in New York City during a period of significant policy change, and while I supported many of the changes, there were also some decisions made that felt disconnected from reality. I wanted to work in a school district and bring my classroom experience to bear on decisions that affected kids and teachers.
What skills that you gained teaching were the most helpful to you in your first non-teaching role? How did your teaching experience play a long-term role in shaping your career?
Danielle: Teaching served as a foundation to my career. I think it’s important to have the experience in the classroom if you plan to have a long term career in education. If awarded the opportunity to teach, you will learn who you are in a challenging, yet very rewarding environment. The ability to think creatively, to inspire, to navigate in ambiguity, to learn from failure, to truly change the world.
Jayson: I begin each conversation by seeking to understand and then seeking to be understood. No matter the group or class I was working with, it was wildly important to invest the time in understanding the context prior to taking action. Newark, NJ might have similar demographics to D.C. but completely different root causes. Asking questions and actually listening to the answers opened the door to solutions I don’t think I would have received otherwise.
What is the most helpful career advice you’ve ever received?
Megan: When I was an intern, my boss told me that I should reach out to anyone I wanted to talk to and ask to learn more about their work and their career path, because everyone is interested in helping out the intern. She was right, and I’ve found that it gave me confidence to reach out to people in my field for advice and to build relationships ever since.
Jayson: My student teaching advisory professor told me that whether you’re an intern or a C-suite staff member, find a piece of the work that your school does and leave your mark. No matter where I worked since then, I always tried to create a system, process, or resource that could innovate some aspect of the work.
Danielle: The best career advice I’ve received was to be bold – insert yourself, don’t ask to be invited, never take things personally, and ask yourself everyday, “What impact do I want to make in 60 days?”
What questions do you have for our team about transitioning to non-teaching education roles? Let us know in the comments below!
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