Switching lanes into teaching

December 8, 2016

Mr. Over on one of his travels to Suzhou, China.

Mr. Over on one of his travels to Suzhou, China.

“To get the first job teaching at a high school, I answered an ad in the LA Times.” said English teacher Conrad Pruitt.  “I was a logger for a Disney Channel show for a year or two. I got bumped up to a story editor and then assistant story editor. I did that for a while, and after a third season, I decided it wasn’t quite for me and I should look into teaching.”

Sometimes, people pursue their dream jobs, but along the way, they realize it’s not what they truly want. For some individuals, being in a different environment may be what they need; however, occasionally, a career change is necessary.

Teaching is something many people don’t think of pursuing, or at least not at first, a handful of Clark’s teachers included. And, according to a recent article published in the LA Times, fewer people have been entering and staying in the teaching field. In fact, approximately 75 percent out of the 200 school districts in California surveyed reported that teaching positions are difficult to occupy due to the decreasing number of people who are interested in teaching. Those who enter teaching as a second career fill some of these open teaching positions.

Having expertise in other fields of work can bring more to the table, many of those who have worked outside of teaching say. Based on in informal survey of 15 Clark Magnet teachers interviewed for this story, approximately two out of three teachers at Clark have had held another occupation prior to teaching.

“I started out by taking a test called the CBEST. From there, I got my paperwork together and got into a credentialing program for English,” Pruitt said. “At the same time, I got hired with zero experience by a Catholic school, and they just threw me into into a class without any classes on how to teach. So I just learned as I went. I think teaching is a better fit, and now I’ve been teaching for 13 years.”

According to The Balance, on average, a person changes careers between three to seven times within their lifetime. But what constitutes something as a career? The truth is, the definition of a career varies from person to person. Some may interpret a career change as simply having a job change, but some see it as changing their entire occupational field.

Although some go into teaching academic subjects after switching careers, many become Career Technical Education (CTE) instructors. CTE teachers teach vocational subjects to provide students with the required knowledge needed to enter a specific career, usually having about four years of prior experience in a field that correlates to the subject. These courses combine hands-on learning with classroom principles to open up pathways to students who are usually interested in fields such as business, law, architecture, government, health science and other fields.

Some of the CTE courses at Clark include photography, animation, cinematography, business technology, engineering and robotics, which are taken as electives. These classes give students hands on experience with the equipment, tools and software.

Before teaching, photography teacher Gregory Zamlich was a character artist for Disney consumer products for five years. “I love Disney, but they started laying people off and unfortunately, I was part of one of those layoffs,” Zamlich said. “I worked as a freelance artist for an amount of years after that, but as the years went on, it started getting more and more scarce. An opportunity came up and I taught at Disney. I’ve always wanted to teach and thought it would be time to give back to the community.”

Prior to teaching at Clark, Animation teacher John Over worked for numerous corporations including Disney, MGM and Warner Bros as a producer and director for TV animation. One reason why Over went into teaching was because at the time, he had no kids which resulted in his desire to dedicate all his time to his work. Even now that he has twins, he wants to continue teaching. “Everyone around me had no kids and was focused on their career,” Over said. “I was focused on my career. I travelled a lot and was away at the studio a lot, so I wasn’t home a lot. I didn’t want some nanny whom I didn’t know to raise the kids. The idea sounded miserable.”

Mr. Over received a BACTA award during his time as an animator.

To be around his kids more often, he took a few years off. As he saw his children growing, he became interested in education and how kids learn and spend their time. “As I was thinking about getting into education, someone offered me a job at CSUN, then this job opened up,” Over said. Another reason why he switched was because he thought he would have extra time. “I spend a little more time on this than even directing,” he said. “[Teaching is] never done, it’s nuts!”

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