How to pursue teaching as a second career

If you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, it’s not too late — and you don’t need a degree in education. There are programs to help you transition into teaching.
School districts are willing to hire and train you — if you have the right attitude.

“We are always in need of high-quality teachers,” said Tova Jackson Davis, director of employment services for the DeKalb County School District. “A lot of people are very intelligent in their content area and have valuable real-life experiences to share with our students, but it takes more than that to be a good teacher.”

Good teachers must have a desire to teach and a commitment to make a difference in the lives of their students.

“The rewards are being able to help students reach their full potential, but it’s not an easy job. It’s not a career you fall back on just because your other career didn’t work out,” Davis said.

A former teacher, Davis knows that every educator  she hires  impacts the lives of many students and families. The match has to be a good one.

“We look for people who have a genuine desire to work with children and see them succeed,” she said. “They must want to share their knowledge and motivate young people. It helps if at some point in their past — either as a summer job or through church or community volunteering — they’ve worked with children and had some success.”

Traditionally, teachers earn their undergraduate degrees in education, pass  a certification exam and go into the classroom. There are alternative routes for people with a bachelor’s degree who want to teach a related subject in middle or high school. The DeKalb County School District’s TAPP (Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy) program allows you to be hired and teach on an itinerant certificate, while taking courses toward earning a teaching certificate.

“Our TAPP program is designed to teach people how to be teachers,” Davis said. “We can give them the theory, strategies, coaching and support they need to be successful while they are on the job.”

To enroll in DeKalb’s TAPP program, applicants must have  an offer of full-time employment with school district, a college degree (with a GPA of at least 2.5 ) and a passing score on the GACE basic skills test, or an exemption such as a master’s degree, an SAT score of at least 1000, an ACT score of 43 or a GRE score of 1030.

“Students will progress through modules of online and face-to-face classes and work with a teaching mentor and TAPP coach. They’ll be meeting goals and benchmarks as they go along and have three years to complete their certification,” Davis said.

Another alternative route is the Mathematics/Science Transition to Teaching program ,  in which paraprofessionals and classified employees with bachelor’s or associate degrees take courses through Georgia State University.

Since the recession, getting a teaching job is more competitive  but DeKalb plans to hire 300 to 400 new teachers this year.

“There are always retirements and needs in growing communities,” Davis said. “We value career changers who really want to teach. They bring wisdom and valuable real-world experience into the classroom that benefits our students.”

For information about the DeKalb County School System’s alternative routes to teacher certification, call 678-676-0077 or go to

“I’m proud to say I’m a teacher”

George Hamilton, who has taught  math at Clarkston High School for five years, is happy to see growth in himself and his students. A corporate engineer for 20 years, Hamilton earned his teaching certificate through the DeKalb County School District’s TAPP program in 2008 and 2009.

“My daughter in college was concerned about the high number of students dropping out of high school, particularly minorities,” Hamilton said. “She wanted to know what I was going to do about it.
“I’d been teaching engineers on the job all my life. My three children were grown, so I began to think about teaching as a second career. When I heard about DeKalb’s alternative approach to certification, I jumped at it.”

The TAPP program taught him how to adapt what he already knew to the high school level.

“I knew my subject, but I needed to learn teaching theory and how to present information in a different way,” Hamilton said. “Teaching challenged me to put everything I knew into my lessons and to become a better person.”

Despite some tough days and dealing with some students’ behavioral problems, he has found the job to be rewarding.

“With my background, I can show students the practicality of the math they are learning and help them see future applications,” he said. “When I see a child who has difficult behavior change slowly and begin to enjoy high school, I’m seeing a difference. I’m proud to say I’m a teacher.”

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