Gordon in the News: last updated 12/17/2010

New Careers for a New Year: Teaching

by Jo Kadlecek

"Gordon has the best of everything." --Debbie Everett, Hamilton, Massachusetts

For almost 22 years Mary Bigus, 47 (pictured), worked as a marketing manager for major corporations. The pay was good, allowing her to support her family, and the work utilized her college degree in communications. But she felt like she wasn’t making a difference for the future. When she had an opportunity to take an early severance package because of company layoffs, she saw it as her chance to realize a lifelong dream: to teach.

Bigus, who recently completed her master’s degree through Gordon College’s graduate education program, is preparing to have an impact in ways her previous career didn’t offer her. Up from last year, career changers like Bigus who are enrolled in Gordon’s graduate program comprise 52 percent of its students and reflect a growing trend of midlife transitions linked to everything from the economy to personal fulfillment.

“I’ve wanted to teach since I was in elementary school but chose a career in marketing because the world told me I needed to get a degree that would make a lot of money,” Bigus said. She received an excellent salary for many years but felt she was doing little to make the world a better place. “Now I can’t imagine any more satisfying job than preparing the next generation of leaders, inventors and those who change the world.”

Timely Career Choices

Her decision to enter the classroom is particularly timely. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a number of fields are experiencing shortages of teachers, such as special education, general science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, English as a second language (ESL), and computer science education. That means professionals in these areas can offer their expertise to students by enrolling in Gordon’s career-changer track, designed specifically for a professional’s schedule. With Friday night and Saturday courses, as well as once-a-week night courses and observations at Massachusetts public schools, busy professionals complete their degrees at their own pace. Classes are offered at the Wenham campus, just off Route 128, and provide a range of content courses and pedagogy, including clinical experiences.

Ryan Heraty, a building contractor in his previous career, recently completed his M.Ed. in moderate disabilities. “Having knowledgeable and committed advocates in my corner enabled me to become successful quickly as a teacher,” he said. The graduate education program focuses on critical thinking skills and applies the latest research in the classroom, which students say prepares them to better understand policy and practice—and the relationships between them.

Debbie Everett, a financial analyst who’s currently completing her master’s in secondary education, believes she’s made the right choice both to switch careers and to attend the small college. “Gordon has the best of everything,” she said. “Great instructors, relevant curriculum, knowledgeable students willing to share their experiences, and a reasonable price have made this a great move for me.”

Affordable Classes

In fact, to make the program more accessible, Gordon recently decreased tuition by $300 for three-credit courses within its graduate education program to encourage career changers and teachers to pursue their Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.), Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS), or licensure. The newly added CAGS also offers educational practitioners the opportunity to pursue a post-master’s course of study, which makes them more marketable and equips them to be leaders in educational reform without the formal commitment and examination of a doctoral program. The course sessions start January 10, continue throughout the year; applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

“Our graduates tell us this program enabled them to earn their degrees more quickly than they imagined,” said Janet Arndt, director of graduate education and licensure. “By reducing tuition and offering a variety of programs, we can make the Gordon opportunity available to career changers and teachers in the North Shore area.”

The investment has already begun to pay off for teachers like Bigus, who’s begun working as a substitute teacher on the North Shore and hopes to have her own classroom in the fall.

“In my experience teaching thus far, I have found students in high school appreciate the energy I bring as a new teacher with latest methods and technology,” said Bigus. “Yet they’re also glad for the wisdom of an older person who has worked in the business world for many years.”

For more information on career changes in teaching, visit www.gordon.edu/careerchanger