Teaching as an Encore Career

I love film. I especially love films that uplift and inspire. When they’re based on a true story about a teacher who’s making a difference in students’ lives, I’m in heaven. I took a trip there recently when I had the privilege of seeing the outstanding documentary, Pressure Cooker.

Pressure Cooker is a fascinating journey to Frankford High School in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia, where teacher Wilma Stephenson teaches culinary arts. This culinary arts class does not remotely resemble the home economics classes of my childhood, nor do Mrs. Stephenson’s blunt, one-of-a-kind, in-your-face, boot camp-style teaching methods remind me of the gentle teachers who taught me how to make gelatin salads and cinnamon toast. But, boy, does Mrs. Stephenson get results.

The film follows the stories of three students who thrive over two semesters under Mrs. Stephenson’s unorthodox tutelage, and the grand finale is the awards ceremony where scholarships to the most prestigious culinary schools in the nation are handed out. Not every student has the wherewithal to survive in Mrs. Stephenson’s classroom, but those who do find themselves championed by an
extraordinary woman whose purpose, passion and commitment inspires them to exceed all expectations. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be inspired by the determination — sometimes at amazing odds — that fuels these amazing kids forward. You’ll have to see the film to see how they fare!

Granted, Wilma Stephenson has been teaching for 38 years, so you could argue that it might be time she begins looking for her own encore career. But, you’d be missing the point.

According to a MetLife Survey, 40% of college-educated adults say they would consider teaching in the future. Are you one of them?

Like the former pastry chef who teaches children to cook in a fun, party setting, while imparting real life skills. Or the retired IBM executive who’s making biology (his first love) interesting and fun for his middle school students. Consider which of your gifts you might bring to the classroom, how you could inspire young minds, and if the idea of teaching inspires you.

If you’re thinking this might be the perfect path for you, but you’re not sure and you’d like to take it for a test drive, check out Experience Corps. Experience Corps is a wonderful organization with mentoring and tutoring programs in schools around the country. You could provide literacy training for or mentor a young person at risk while you’re determining if teaching is for you.

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