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Desire to help others a key component in chosing education as career

So you want to become a teacher

October 5, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

ISHPEMING - Kids spend at least 13 years of their lives in school, doing homework, making friends and above all, learning. Some can't wait to leave after graduation. Some, however, start thinking about making the jump to the other side of the classroom - a career as a teacher.

"They're educating everyone who's going to be working," said Katelyn Harrington, 16. Although she's just a junior at Westwood High School this year, Harrington has already begun thinking about possible careers, including teaching high school English.

Fellow Westwood student Jarrett Davidson, 18, a senior, is also considering teaching high school math.

Article Photos

Katelyn Harrington, 16, and Jarrett Davidson, 18, both students at Westwood High School, may be the students now, but they are also looking to the future, considering becoming teachers themselves. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

"That's my favorite subject in school," Davidson said. "I get the concepts pretty easily and I can help others out."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers of kindergarten through high school held 3.5 million jobs in 2008, most in elementary or secondary school positions. The job field is expected to grow 13 percent by 2018, which is about average for all occupations. Particularly states in the South and West are expected to have the largest school enrollment increases. Demand is also expected to grow in fields like math, science and bilingual education, as well as in less-desirable urban or rural school districts.

Both Harrington and Davidson said they felt they would be able to relate better to high school students rather than middle school or elementary school, and said they felt a teacher's ability to connect with students is one of the most important.

"I think seeing where the students are coming from, their perspective on issues," Davidson said.

Harrington agreed, adding that the ability to connect with students is a trait held by one of her favorite teachers.

"A lot of teachers don't let you put in your opinion," she said. "People can look up to her (Westwood teacher Scotti Ostwald) because she's younger. She makes things fun. She can relate to us."

Although Davidson said having summers off would be one benefit of a teaching job, challenges might include living on a teacher's salary and dealing with some students.

"There's not a whole lot of pay in it," he said. "I'd like to go somewhere where there's jobs."

Even though they are high school students themselves, Davidson and Harrington also said they realized dealing with students may also bring challenges.

"We have a tendency to be stubborn about things," Harrington said. "There's always that problem child you have to deal with."

"There's always the kids that make the class fun though," Davidson said.

For high school students thinking about careers in teaching, Northern Michigan University's Assistant Director of Career Services Steve LaFond said one of the best things they can do is stay on track with their own education.

"They should know they have to keep their grades up," LaFond said. "They don't let just anybody major in education."

For many schools, NMU included, students interested in teaching careers must apply to be in the education department, which requires a minimum grade point average.

Beyond their own school work, students considering going into a teaching field should aim for summer or volunteer work that allows them to be with the age group they are interested in teaching, LaFond said.

"They might be sure their summer employment be in areas that expose them to young children or youth programs," he said, suggesting working as a summer camp counselor or at a youth program for organizations like the YMCA. Working or volunteering in those capacities will give students a chance to experience working with young people and help them begin building their resumes.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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