Read Time: 8 minutes

Illustration of children standing at a chalkboardWe hear it from so many of our alumni: you took time off from teaching for family care or other reasons and then you’re not sure how to return to the workforce, even though you feel ready. In this issue we’ve gathered wisdom from your fellow alumni to encourage anyone who might be stepping back into teaching territory.

Hiring and Supporting Relationship Experts: One Principal’s Perspective

Joseph Jones, ’08, principal of Southgate Elementary in Washington’s Kennewick School District, knows what he is looking for to fill a vacancy in his staff.

“You’re looking for someone who understands that relationships are key with kids—someone who really knows it’s more than just teaching math and science,” Jones says. “You’ve got to know your content, but you’ve got to know that it’s all about developing relationships with kids and that social-emotional relationships right now are so key.”

Jones doesn’t think that a person who has been away from the classroom for a while is at any disadvantage in the hiring process.

“Not at all,” he continues. “They’ve just taken some time off for family, but they’ve got all the tools in the tool belt, and they’re ready to get back at it.” In fact, he thinks they could have some advantages. “You can see the energy that they bring, wanting to get back in the profession. They’re excited to be back in the workplace, so it’s refreshing.”

In Jones’s current school district, he does everything from posting positions, screening, checking references, interviewing, and hiring, with input from his team. Other district offices post and screen before principals interview canditates in groups.

Once hired, a new teacher is never left to struggle alone. The grade team is part of hiring, so they are committed to each new hire’s success. They formally plan weekly, but they talk and coordinate much more often. Administrators, technology representatives, and a help desk are all resources usually present to help a returning teacher get a smooth start.

In the state of Washington, first-year teachers are on a comprehensive evaluation plan to ensure all goes well. Jones says, “For three years, people have a probationary period. Once they get up to level three, or a proficient level of teaching, then we focus on one criterion instead of eight. It gives them a chance to focus on growth. Then, every six years we cycle to a comprehensive  evaluation. That first year is very critical and somewhat intense. There’s extra support given to that teacher to help them out.”

Jones encourages those thinking about returning to teaching to start volunteering: “We have had some people who have wanted to get back into teaching, and we have asked them to come volunteer in our building, get into classrooms, work with teachers, and do some of those types of things. If you’re not comfortable being in front of kids or it has been a long time, it can take a little bit to get your feet wet.”

Preparing for Strategic Reentry: One Teacher’s ExperienceIllustration of a person working on a laptop

This year, Jennifer Shearer, ’02, has renewed her license to work as a paraprofessional at Utah’s Mountain Heights Academy, an online high school, while she looks for an opening in one of her endorsement areas.

“While I have children at home, I am really hoping to continue teaching for an online school. I love the flexibility to be available to my own kids.”

After graduation, Shearer taught at an alternative high school for a year, and then she taught at West Jordan High School in Utah for four years before staying home with her children.

Starting in 2017, she taught English to Chinese children online. She loved the work, but the early morning hours became more difficult as her children got older.

Shearer says, “I was excited to find out that last year the state of Utah changed the license renewal process. It is now significantly easier to relicense! I found that I didn’t need to do anything else. My work in PTA and volunteering at my children’s schools counted. My paraprofessional hours pushed me well over the required hours. The application process itself was fairly easy.”

Shearer encourages others to “start looking at the license renewal requirements now! Keep track of everything you do that could count as relicensure hours. Become familiar with the changes that have happened in education since you last taught.”

Following That Good Impulse: One Teacher’s Return

Because of recent health problems, Chris Andy Andrus, ’90, had considered waiting to figure out how to return to work. But something kept pushing her to get an application in to the Ogden School District in Utah as she looked at part-time staff assistant positions.

Andrus had taught kindergarten and first grade in Utah’s Nebo School District for five years before having her first child and moving to Florida. Five more kids and 17 years later, she and her husband decided she should go back to work part-time to help pay for upcoming college and mission expenses.

“I had been active in PTA and community council at the schools my kids attended,” Andrus says. “One principal I had worked closely with supplied a letter of recommendation. She contacted me about a position in the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports room. It was the perfect fit for my schedule and health, and I was excited to work for someone I was familiar with.”

“Later that year, my principal approached me about an opening in kindergarten,” she continues. “But I had never renewed my license, thinking I needed to do 200 hours of college credit. What mom with young kids has time for that? The principal said that I could do a ‘return to licensure.’ I could be hired provisionally for one year, and then if I did well, my license could be reinstated to the level I left at.

“I had a steep learning curve and am so thankful for a patient, knowledgeable, and caring team! My principal was extremely helpful during classroom observations. I made it through that first year largely due to the team, and I was reinstated at a level 2. My retirement benefits were reinstated to what I was receiving in 1997.”

Despite how it all may seem different and challenging, Andrus tells others to not be intimidated at the thought of reentering the profession: “Whenever things get extra challenging, I remember why I became a teacher in the first place: to make a difference in children’s lives! I feel I am still doing that—one day at a time.”

This is the fourth article of a four-part series. Click the links below to read more tips about returning to teaching:


Written by Cynthia Glad

Illustrations by Abigail White