When I left my law firm, I did not immediately search for a new career.
I don’t want to get into a tremendous amount of detail about why I chose to pursue a career in education, but I will say that I wanted to pursue work that would allow me the opportunity to change individual lives around me. I spent a significant amount of time thinking about my own personal highest and best use. How could I use my specialized education and knowledge, as well as my strong desire for excellence, to provide the most benefit to people around me? Where was I needed?
Over the course of a few months, I began to research opportunities in education. Upon reflection, it seemed to me that educational inequity is a foundational problem that leads to a number of other societal issues. It appeared to me that with educational equality, other problems in our society (e.g., poverty, disease, unemployment, etc.) could be avoided.
Although I had desire to go into education, I had not decided on the path I would take to get there. I spent time researching several options, like working with an education-related non-profit and even going back to school to obtain a degree in education.
One day, I attended a local job fair. I had seen that a local school system would be participating, and I wanted to speak with someone about teaching. When I spoke with a representative of the school system, we discussed my legal background and my interest in pursuing a career in education. Thankfully, she was very honest and frank with me. She said that without a demonstrated background or interest in teaching on my resume, I would likely be perceived as a burned out lawyer looking for an “easier” profession. (Yes, lawyers seeking any type of career transition get that one a lot. If you are a lawyer looking to transition, you will fight that stereotype everywhere you go.) It seemed harsh, but I greatly appreciated her honesty. If I would be fighting that perception, I needed to know it! We talked about different ways that I could effectively begin the transition to education, like going back to school or becoming a part of Teach for America. And that is when my path started becoming clearer to me.
I started researching Teach for America pretty heavily after that. I was very impressed with the information that I found. I read Teach for America’s website, I read editorials in a number of newspapers, and I read all of the blog posts I could get my hands on. I read the good, the bad, and the ugly. I understand some people love TFA, and some people have criticisms of TFA. I understand that some people have had incredibly positive experiences teaching, and that others have had, well… less than positive experiences.
But at the end of the day, I believed (and still believe) in the work that TFA is doing to eliminate the achievement gap in our schools, and I wanted to be a part of it. Teaching with Teach for America fit perfectly within the parameters of the mission statement I had previously identified for myself and the career goals that I had set to find challenging and meaningful work that would change lives. I decided I would apply. And the rest is history!