Second Career Educators: The Path Less Traveled

Q&A with Lakota's Second Career Educators
Posted on 01/31/2019
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The Lakota experience is ripe with opportunities that encourage exploration of future career options and pathways. By focusing on the 4Es - Employment, Enrollment, Enlistment and Entrepreneurship - teachers and staff are committed to exposing students to the many different possibilities of their future.

Some teachers and staff can personally attest to one of the lessons wrapped up in this message: The path to discovering your life’s work and passion can be a windy one. For these five individuals, for example, K-12 education was a second or third stop in their career paths. But in the end, the decision to push their own professional boundaries has landed them in a place where they were meant to be.

Each of them took a moment to reflect on their decision to enter education. Here’s what they had to say.

Ian Brown
Biology & Zoology Teacher, Lakota West High School

West zoology teacher Ian Brown demonstrates a concept on the board as a student looks on.Former Careers: Zookeeper, marine animal trainer, outdoor education, cruise ship teen counselor

Years in Education: First year

What attracted you most to the teaching profession? I love the conversations with teenagers and having them be excited about the world that surrounds them. I enjoy learning about my students’ interests and using it as a springboard to teach them about mine.

How has the transition pushed you out of your comfort zone? I am used to always being outside and having nature, culture, and animals to use as teaching tools and create teaching moments. I am in the process of creating more of these experiences for my students.


Laura Elam

Teacher, Wyandot Early Childhood School

Wyandot kindergarten teacher Laura Elam plays along with two of her students during pretend play in Elam's Cafe. Former Career: Life insurance and financial services

Years in Education: 8

What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?

The hugs! I love the joy children bring to the classroom every single day.

What would surprise your former colleagues most about your new profession?

That I spent 2 years away from work to pursue my Master’s degree and start a new career working with 5 and 6 year olds!


Kenneth Jones

Intervention Specialist, Ridge Junior School

Ridge Junior teacher Ken Jones helps a student who is working on the computer. Former Career: Banking & financial services (fiscal office specialist for Lakota’s payroll department)

Years in Education: First year

How has the transition pushed you out of your comfort zone? I have gone from working behind a desk, in a cube, to being front and center in a classroom. Being a teacher means never having down time, always having to be on my game and ready. Every day, I have to make sure that I am prepared to guide, motivate and challenge my students.

What attracted you most to the teaching profession? As a coach in the district for the last four years, I realized the influence and impact that I could have on a young person’s life. The more that I came to this realization, the more that I wanted to be a positive influence on a greater number of students. Teaching offered the greatest opportunity.


Tiffani Wills

Assistant Principal, Woodland Elementary School

Woodland Assistant Principal Tiffani Wills is surrounded by students in a classroom. Former Career: Adhesives industry (packaging)

Years in Education: 6

What attracted you most to the field of education?

I believe that all students, regardless of life circumstance, can be successful. I believe that I can best serve my community and make a greater impact by being a passionate instructional leader and a catalyst for positive change. 

How has the transition pushed you out of your comfort zone?

When one believes that there is not a solution, part of my job is to spark the discovery of a solution-even if/when the effort takes me out of my comfort zone.


John Severns

Chemistry & physics teacher, Lakota East High School

East Physics teacher John Severns walks around his room, laughing about something with one student. Former Career: Chemist (Research & Development)

Years in Education: 18

What do you enjoy most about being a teacher? Developing relationships with students and having an impact on their lives is extremely rewarding. My high school chem teacher changed the educational and professional arc of my life. I hope that I can be that impactful to some of my students. I love the autonomy of the classroom. Unlike P&G where someone was always watching what I was doing, teaching is much more entrepreneurial.

How has the transition pushed you out of your comfort zone? The day I left P&G, I felt like I was jumping off a cliff – leaving a very comfortable and secure career for something that I might not be good at. Just a few days into my new career, 9/11 happened. I vividly recall watching the second tower fall live with my students. They were all looking to me to make sense of what was happening. I learned that day that the role of “teacher” encompasses so much more than the content of the course. Nothing could have prepared me for that. It obliterated my comfort zone.