So you want to teach?

With Va. facing a teacher shortage, a former educator offers tips for those who want to transition into a fulfilling career in the classroom

October 26, 2023 12:43 am

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Virginia is facing a severe shortage of qualified teachers. For the 2022-2023 school year, there were over 3,500 full-time teacher vacancies in the state, particularly affecting specialized subjects. This teacher shortage threatens the quality of education and students’ well-being. However, there’s hope on the horizon. Are you considering a career shift to teaching to help alleviate this crisis? 

If you have a passion for teaching and expertise in a subject, transitioning into education can be immensely rewarding. Many exceptional teachers come from non-traditional backgrounds, enriching classroom instruction with real-world experience. As someone who shifted from marketing to high school teaching, I can attest to the value of this transition.

Teaching is fulfilling, offering a chance to make a meaningful impact. Welcoming second-career teachers can benefit both educators and students. To navigate this transition effectively, consider these four key tips.

Research alternative licensure programs

If you’re ready to make the move into the classroom, the first step is to look into your state’s requirements for teaching certification. While rules for each state vary, candidates who have a bachelor’s degree can often earn an alternative teaching certification within 12-24 months.

In-classroom teaching experience and mentoring are most likely included in the certificate training. Research Virginia’s licensure requirements and reach out to your local school district to learn more about what job openings they have so you can make an informed decision about your new career opportunities.

With Virginia’s teaching shortages, there are many school districts offering perks, like paying for teaching licenses. The state offers the Career Switcher program specially designed to help career professionals transition into teaching. I recommend researching the best certification options for you and a program that is certified by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Establish systems of support

While being an educator is a rewarding profession, there is no denying it is also quite challenging, particularly in the first few years. As a new teacher, having support systems in place to help you cope with the inevitable challenges is critical for your success, growth and continued perseverance in the profession. Some 44% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and burnout is usually the culprit. 

Many trusted resources are available to make teaching easier and more enjoyable, one of which is your fellow educators. Your colleagues love to teach, and that includes guiding your efforts and helping you succeed. Tap into their expertise and ask what other supports they leaned on when they were early on in their teaching career.

Use formative assessment to measure yourself

When most people hear the word “assessment,” they often associate it with an end-of-unit check on learning, whether you are an educator or student. However, formative assessment is a process used to provide information on learning as it develops.

As a teacher moving from another profession, you probably know your subject matter thoroughly but may not have a clear picture of your other strengths and weaknesses as an educator. I suggest going through career prep courses, like skill-based learning courses, to have a greater understanding of your strengths and to hone in on which age group and subjects you can excel at in teaching. 

Use technology for efficiency and digital collaboration

Become familiar with your school’s technology resources so you can choose relevant, pre-written lesson plans to augment classroom learning. A wide variety of digital materials can save you valuable time during your prerequisite teaching credential requirements and enrich your students’ learning. Some even provide a rich database of standards-aligned content students can use during daily class assignments or projects. Beyond utilizing your schools’ technology offerings to increase your efficiency, digital collaboration with your colleagues will become second nature.  

Transitioning from the corporate world to the classroom is both rewarding and challenging. By researching alternative licensure programs, establishing support systems, conducting formative self-assessments, and embracing educational technology, you can set yourself up for success on this fulfilling journey. As you embark on your new profession as an educator, remember that you have the opportunity to motivate and inspire the leaders and workers of tomorrow, contributing to a brighter future for all Virginians.


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Aimee Heavener
Aimee Heavener

A former Virginia teacher, Aimee Heavener is now a K-12 marketing manager at Gale, part of Cengage Group, dedicated to supporting educators. With experience in teaching and marketing, Mrs. Heavener understands the importance of effective communication in education. She resides in the Greater Washington, D.C. area and enjoys spending her free time with her family and rescue dogs.