After Audrey Hochhauser graduated from the University in 1989, she, as many of her peers did, entered the business world. But after just one year in advertising she found her job dissatisfying, and decided to return to the University to study to become a teacher. "I found working at the ad agency completely unfulfilling," Hochhauser said last week. "The people who made it there sacrificed everything I hope to get out of life. Regardless of the money and whatever else comes with being a teacher, I decided it was what I wanted to do." Hochhauser, who is now working for a masters degree at the Graduate School of Education, is one of many GSE students who have traded in their old occupations to become a teacher. · Over the past two years, enrollment in the Graduate School of Education's Teacher Education Program has increased almost 60 percent, and will continue to increase in the years to come, according to Director of Admissions Margaret Harkins. TEP is an intensive, one-year Masters of Education program which mixes coursework at the University with student teaching in inner-city public schools. Most education schools award a master only after two years of course work. GSE is also one of only a few graduate schools in the country which concentrates its student teaching programs in urban public schools, said James Larkin, director of education programs. While GSE offers three degrees -- masters, Ph.D and Ed.D -- the enrollment increase has occurred mainly in the masters program, and particularly in the TEP program, officials said. Dean Marvin Lazerson said last week that renewed interest and optimism for teaching reflects a nationwide phenomenon. "There is a tremendous growth in interest occurring across the nation," Lazerson said. "I think what came out of the 1980s was a strong sense that society had lost its ethical purpose. Now I see a clear willingness to take seriously that education is important." Provost Michael Aiken attributed the enrollment growth not only to the nationwide increases, but also to the school's increased prestige, which he credited to the efforts of Lazerson. "This school has really prospered under the leadership of Dean Lazerson," Aiken said. · Many GSE students said that they were reluctant to pursue a career in education immediately after graduating from college because of the low pay and the lack of respect for the teaching profession. Robert Miller, a masters student in secondary education, held several jobs, including banking and owning a contracting business, before he decided to go into teaching. "I've always wanted to go into teaching, but when I graduated [from Cornell University] in 1983, it didn't seem like a good alternative," Miller said last week. "People sort of looked down on teachers. As I tried a lot of different careers, I just started thinking more and more about teaching." Hochhauser said that the pre-professional atmosphere at the University while she was an undergraduate had initially discouraged her from going into teaching. Masters candidate Matthew Baird worked as a management consultant for three years in public transportation before he made the move from the business world to the classroom. He said that his former job was good, but he is very excited about being a teacher. "It wasn't appropriate for me," Baird said. "I just reached a point a year and a half ago when I realized I'd rather be doing something else than being a management consultant. I wanted to impact peoples' lives more." Baird added that going back to school to get certified in teaching is no longer unusual. "People are open to teaching who weren't open to it before," he said. "They're starting to ask what they want, and money is not as important as it used to be. You begin to hear of a lot more people like myself who made career changes." Masters student Leslie Harvey, who had planned to go to law school after graduating from Wheaton College in 1988, said that she has noticed an increased respect for teaching. "After I graduated, I spent a year working in a law office doing paralegal stuff, and I realized that law wasn't for me," Harvey said. Many students said that they find their work at GSE much more "rewarding" than their previous occupation, pointing to the student-teaching experience as most enjoyable. Baird, who teaches high school social studies, praised TEP for the student teaching experience at an inner-city public school. "Originally I got into teaching with the idea of going to a small private school, but now I certainly would be open to teaching in a public school," Baird said. Miller, who teaches World History and Current Events to 9th and 10th graders at a magnet public high school in the city, said that he never appreciated the challenge of teaching until he had to teach in front of a class. "Getting into the classroom for the first time was really an eye opener," said Miller. "I realized the difficulty of teaching a class." · Dean Lazerson said that the expected increase in teachers' salaries in the next decade and the openings created by the many teachers approaching retirement age will create a further incentive for prospective teachers in years to come. But Lazerson added that to get teaching positions in desirable school districts is very competitive and that the nation's current economic crisis poses additional risks to the health of the education system. "The current recession and the possibility that it may be deeper and longer is a note of caution," Lazerson said. "There are a lot of retirements, but the school districts have no money." Admissions Director Harkins said that the recent influx of students into the program has prompted the school to expand its network of urban public schools and teaching supervisors and is preparing to deal with further enrollment increases. Harkins also said that in addition to people who are leaving other careers to study education, she has observed increased interest in undergraduates at the University to submatriculate into GSE in their senior year. "I see a desire to do something about our society," Harkins said. "People are not just interested in being doctors and lawyers anymore."Comments powered by Disqus
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