How I Turned My Love for Education Into a Career (Outside the Classroom!)
When you're passionate about teaching and education, it's easy to think that your career options are limited to a classroom. But it turns out, there are plenty of education-related opportunities—and in places you might not expect, like leadership development, technology, and language.
Take these five professionals, for example: While some of them actually did teach in a classroom, some didn't study anything remotely related to education and have never been behind a teacher's desk. What they all do have in common, however, is a passion for changing education now and in the future.
Wondering what options you have and how to get there? Read on to find out more about the roles of these five professionals, their backgrounds, and how they found their way into their education-related positions.
Manager, Teacher Leadership Development, Teach For America
"I've always had a passion for education," Aimée Baez explains, noting that she was fortunate to attend excellent New York City public schools—and had great teachers—throughout her childhood. "And because of that experience," she continues, "it was really important for me to do the same for students living in my neighborhood."
She became a member of the Teach for America corps, teaching first, second, and third grade in the South Bronx. Armed with four years of experience in the classroom, Baez then decided she wanted to share that knowledge and expertise with other corps members—so she applied for her current position as manager of Teacher Leadership Development, where she coaches first- and second-year TFA teachers.
UX Lead Designer, Lore
While Katie Koch was in graduate school studying interaction design, much of her work focused on education. In fact, she started an after school program called Project Interaction, where she taught high school students how to design. When an opportunity at Lore (formerly Coursekit) opened up, she knew it was the perfect way to combine her interaction design skills and passion for education.
In this role, Koch advocates for the company's users, making sure they're considered in every design decision Lore makes and improving their overall experience.
She emphasizes that Lore "is a really cool place to work when you're interested in learning." (She does, after all, classify herself as a "lifelong learner.) She's able to help create the company's online learning tools, partake in its full library of books, and learn from an office full of smart (and education-minded) colleagues.
User Experience Designer and Researcher, Chegg
When Diego Mendes had to make a decision about his career, he wanted a job that would allow him to have the biggest impact in creating a better world. For him, the direction was clear: "Everything that we do depends on education," he explains, noting democracy, climate change, crime rates, and world peace as examples. "If we don't have the best education ever, we can't overcome whatever challenges we have in the future."
Knowing Chegg's mission, Mendes knew it was the place for him. In a nutshell, his job in user experience design and research consists of listening to the company's users (who are students) and creating products they love. "We're completely tied to student success," he shares. "If students succeed using Chegg, then Chegg succeeds, and I love that."
VP for Pedagogy and Curriculum, Voxy
After majoring in Spanish, Katie Nielson began her career as an English teacher in South America. Then, spurred by her love for teaching and language, she went on to earn a master's and PhD, focusing her graduate research on the role of technology in the way that adults learn languages. According to her, none of the language-learning products available today work—and that's why she was so eager to take a position at Voxy.
As the VP for Pedagogy and Curriculum, Nielson oversees all the language-acquisition aspects of the company's product, making sure they're optimal for adult learning and that they follow established learning principles. "We're building something that will change the way the world learns languages."
Marketing and Communications Manager, TNTP
James Cho focused his education on communications, studying service branding at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. After graduation, however, he wanted to do something more meaningful—so he moved to Arizona to become a fifth grade teacher. But while he enjoyed teaching, he missed his first love—marketing and communications. So when he was offered a marketing position at a company aiming to end educational inequality, he knew it was the perfect opportunity.
Now, Cho spends his days interacting with the company's audience, through social media, brand strategy, publications, and community management. Most importantly, he makes sure that TNTP's message comes across through every channel in a clear, accurate, and poignant way.
Photo of lightbulb courtesy of Shutterstock.
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