Read Time: 11 minutes
Julie Griffin, BS ’92, sat by her husband’s hospital bed and heard the doctor say he was not going to make it. “I made up my mind that night in the hospital that I was going to be prepared,” she said.
That was in 2012. Griffin had graduated from the McKay School in elementary education in 1992 and had taught second grade full time until 1997, when her second child was born. While welcoming three more children over the next few years, Griffin continued substituting and volunteering in schools. She always intended to return to full-time teaching at some point and even accepted a post as a long-term substitute in the school her children attended. That is when her husband got very ill with Crohn’s disease.
“It is hard,” she said of getting back into the profession full-time. “I had let my certification lapse.” Griffin definitely did not feel prepared to become the sole financial provider for her family, but that necessity seemed imminent.
Her husband made it through that night in the hospital, and then he made it through some more nights. He was hospitalized for four months and is now in remission. Griffin continued teaching part time for six more years while raising their children and helping her husband recover. This year she returned to a full-time class of sixth graders.
While the details of her story are unique, Griffin is not alone. She is one of many teachers, primarily women, who take breaks from teaching full time. Then, perhaps years later, they need a reentry plan.
Griffin is very grateful for her principal, who helped her recertify while her husband was recovering. She said, “The process was clear, but I did not look at it closely enough. The things I had been doing counted. I had 200 points!”
Griffin’s advice for those taking a break is, “Get involved at your local school. You can volunteer. Get your toes wet. It counts. If you are considering going back, ease yourself into it. There is a lot you will learn by getting involved.”
Is Your Teaching License Current?
Over and over, alumni emphasize the importance of keeping that teaching license current. But as life happens, many people let theirs lapse.
“Once their teaching license has expired, it is really up to the whims of their particular state as to the process of renewal,” said Brandan Beerli, supervisor of the McKay School’s Education Advisement Center. “This is the same for transferring a license from one state to another. All that we can offer is an institutional verification.”
Tips to Renew or Transfer Your License
✐ To renew a teaching license, contact the department of education in your state of residence and follow their process for licensure renewal.
✐ To transfer a Utah license to a different state, you will need to submit an institutional verification from BYU. You can do this by completing the Release of Information request on the McKay School website (education.byu.edu/advisement/release). Individual states may have different procedures and mandates for license transfers. Do not assume that “license reciprocity” between Utah and another state means the process will be hassle-free—or cost-free.
✐ While the state of Utah has had no licensing fees since the legislature began covering the cost in July 2017, and several other states waive the costs of licensing, you may encounter fees for background checks, sending transcripts, etc. Utah’s process can all be done online, but each state is different.
Looking for an Endorsement Boost?
It may help if a returning teacher studies for an endorsement, either before or after starting work. These are available through BYU and other universities, and they have obvious benefits, said Barry Graff, associate director over professional development in the McKay School’s Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling.
“Endorsements make the teacher a bit more of an expert in a given area,” Graff said. “You go deeper into research, theory, and practice than you would in your undergraduate experience or through some traditional teacher professional development in a district.”
There is also a salary incentive, he added: “Teacher pay scales have steps and lanes, and with graduate credit, you can move across the lanes and make more money.”
Endorsements are intended to be earned by experienced educators, according to Graff, rather than undergraduates. “Most endorsements are four to six courses, usually of three credits each. At BYU they run for two years during fall and winter semesters and spring term—September to June.”
Endorsements Offered at BYU
- K–12 reading
- Utah elementary math (K–6)
- Gifted and talented
- Arts integration
Learn more by messaging firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling
Thinking of Earning More Degrees?
“My overarching takeaway from graduate school is that I am now a much more empathetic teacher. It has helped me understand how difficult learning can be for those who might have learning disabilities. And I knew that in terms of salary, I was as far as I could go.”
—Ingrid Shurtleff, teaching certificate, ’07; MS, special education, ’20
Graduate Degrees Offered by the McKay School to Enhance Your Education Career
- MS—special education
- MEd—educational leadership, with an emphasis in school leadership or education policy studies
- MS—instructional psychology and technology
- MA—teacher education
- EdD—educational leadership
- EdS—school psychology
- PhD—educational inquiry, measurement, and evaluation
- PhD—instructional psychology and technology
Need a Less Intense but Still Useful Boost?
Join the BYU Latter-day Saint Educators Society conference each summer. It is for all teachers, including but not limited to
- K–12 educators
- Higher education educators
- Educational leaders
- Seminary and institute personnel
- Ward and stake teachers
- Prospective educators
The society offers a platform in which Latter-day Saint educators—guided by a personal testimony and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ—can network together, share research findings and successes, discuss challenges, and offer support and encouragement to one other.
Two Teachers' Experiences with Returning to a Teaching Career
Tricia Galer—early childhood education and elementary education, '95 (Rexburg, Idaho)
- She taught three years in Ohio and Wisconsin before her children were born.
- Because of volunteer work with a school arts program, she was recruited to teach an elementary art methods class at BYU–Idaho. She then added other courses.
- She is now in her fifth year back in a fourth-grade classroom.
- Her biggest concern as she returned to the classroom was Common Core state standards. “I had been teaching about these things in one of my campus classes, but the actual transfer of that to my own practice was daunting.”
- “We have a big need for teachers who are in a more mature stage of life ready to commit to a career in the classroom.”
- “I saw with my [BYU–Idaho] students so often that the main driving force was ‘I just love kids.’ What you have to love also is learning. You have to be a reader and constantly curious. It is not an easy thing to engage children in this day when technology is so ever-present in their lives. Modeling that kind of curiosity and wonder about the world is so important to do.”
Ingrid Shurtleff—postbaccalaureate teaching certificate, '07; MS, special education, '20 (Provo, Utah)
- She used her travel and tourism degree from 1989 until 1990, when the first of three daughters was born.
- “When I decided to go back into the workforce, I felt very little confidence. I did not have any good skills that I needed. I look back and realize how much more confidence I have now.”
- She started working part time with English language learners at her children’s school in 2001.
- She earned a special education postbaccalaureate degree and teaching license in 2007.
- She taught at Amelia Earhart Elementary in 2006, then Provo Peaks Elementary, and then Timpview High. She now works as an instructional coach for special education teachers in the Provo City School District.
- “Figure out what excites you, what you are passionate about, or what you really want to learn to do. Then start learning about it! The internet can be a positive tool for expanding your knowledge about the things that interest you. Topics that may not have been too interesting to you when you were younger may begin to surface as you go through more life experiences.”
This is the first article of a four-part series. Click the links below to read more tips about returning to teaching:
- Returning to Teaching: Digesting the Alphabet Soup
- Returning to Teaching: Tackling the Technical
- Returning to Teaching: Stories from Alumni
Writer: Cynthia Glad
Illustrator: Abigail White, '23