Career Switchers Bring Experience to K-12 Classrooms

Posted: May 23, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Amy Biderman

Kevin Laub never planned to become a teacher. With an undergraduate degree in English, the native New Yorker decided to pursue a career in investment banking on Wall Street. “In college,” he says, “I had one goal: to make enough money to live in New York City.”

Everything changed on Sept. 11, 2001. Laub was working at Morgan Stanley on the 62nd floor of Tower Two at the World Trade Center. The company lost five employees in the terrorist attacks, but Laub survived in a harrowing escape – he walked down 62 flights of stairs as a plane flew into the tower.

Following that horrific experience, Laub says, he had an epiphany, “a single moment of intense, maybe even violent, clarity when I looked at my life and thought, ‘This is not my beautiful life.’”

Kevin Laub teaching
After six years on Wall Street, Kevin Laub realized he was meant to be a teacher.

While Laub had already begun to question his career path after seven years on Wall Street, he admits that he would have maintained the status quo without the events of Sept. 11 as a catalyst.

“I don’t think anything else would have spurred me on,” he says. “I was really comfortable and not motivated to change. But after the terrorist attacks, it seemed that the harder I worked, the emptier everything seemed at the end of the day.”

The turning point came when the woman who would become his wife asked a simple question: Why don’t you become an English teacher? “In that moment,” he says, “the weight lifted. ‘Oh my God,’ I said. ‘I’m supposed to be a teacher.’”

Laub discovered the Career Switcher Program on George Mason’s web site. “It was perfect,” he says. “I could take my six years on Wall Street and start over.”

Supplying Teachers in Critical Needs Subject Areas

CEHD’s Career Switcher Program prepares experienced individuals for Virginia licensure as secondary school teachers with certification in biology, chemistry, earth science, English, history/social science, mathematics or physics.

Applicants need five years of professional experience, ideally in a field related to the teaching specialty, as well as passing scores on standardized tests. Twenty-five students are enrolled in the program.

“George Mason is taking a leadership role in securing top-quality teachers in critical needs teaching areas,” says Anastasia Samaras, coordinator of the Career Switcher Program.

“The program harnesses the amazing talents of experienced individuals and supports their entry into their new career as teachers. Imagine a chemist, a biologist with a PhD, an accountant, a restaurant manager, a West Point graduate and many others who bring their content specializations, life skills and maturity into Virginia’s classrooms. I am in awe of their transference of skills and their passion to teach.”

Samaras points out that the Career Switcher Program does not work with so-called provisional teachers who have little or no preparation.

“CEHD’s career switchers complete virtually the same program as in the traditional teaching route at Mason. This rigorous process is designed to reduce the number of career changers who take teaching positions on a provisional license.”

Opening a New Door to Personal Fulfillment

Laub moved to Washington, D.C., and entered the Career Switcher Program in January 2003. He started teaching ninth-grade English at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., that August and went on to earn his master’s degree at George Mason in 2005.

Like Laub, Judy Bello made a dramatic career change, but hers came after 30 years in the legal and policy fields. She had been a counsel for private law firms and government agencies, as well as executive vice president of a pharmaceutical trade association.

While she had been an adjunct professor at Yale and Princeton Universities, her teaching experience was confined to the graduate and professional levels.

“I decided I wanted to do something dramatically different,” Bello says. “I always had a passion for literature and found that I was fleeing to it in my free time – I thought that was very telling. I decided it would be a joy to have literature as the center of my vocation, rather than as an avocation.”

Judy Bello teaching
Judy Bello followed her passion for literature and became a high school teacher.
Photos by Evan Cantwell

Bello entered the Career Switcher Program in January 2005 and started teaching 10th-grade English at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., in September of the same year.

Bello thinks so highly of the program that she touts it to others.

“Career Switcher takes people with affirmative, motivating reasons for entering the teaching profession, but aren’t sure how to do it,” she says. “It’s the best way I can imagine to encourage more people in midlife who desire change to open a new door and contribute in a different way.”

For more information on the Career Switcher Program, see the web site or call 703-993-3696.

This article is from the spring issue of CEHD Magazine.

Write to at