For some people it’s a fork in the road. For others, it’s an unavoidable “Ah-ha!” moment. It can even be waking up one morning and realizing the side of the bed you’ve been sleeping on for all these years isn’t the right one anymore. For former executive vice president and corporate director of MSCW, Inc., Carol Conner, it was simply “the right time” to pursue her dream of teaching as a profession. After 28 years, numerous accolades and dozens of projects in the field of engineering in Central Florida she chose a new career path: becoming an educator in underprivileged schools.
“I felt like teaching would provide me with an opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives,” says Connor. “Teaching is something I have considered for quite some time because I believe every student deserves a chance to have a good experience in math.” In the classroom, Connor plans to innovate by finding ways to provide real world inspiration, examples and energy as context for learning from her previous career.
But why choose an urban school? According to Connor, the difference between choosing an urban school with low-income families and any other school is the large percentage of students who come from disadvantaged socio-economic conditions face special challenges. “They often don’t have access to the kinds of supplemental resources that other schools do,” she says. “I think I can help connect those schools to community resources. Also, students in those schools are often not aware of the exciting career choices available to them, and they don’t understand the potential life-long consequences of getting behind in math.”
Since both of her children have grown up and gone off to college, Connor, a self-proclaimed kid at heart, feels best when surrounded by pre-teens and teenagers, which is very apparent considering her community involvement working with youth groups at her church, as former chairperson of the Florida Engineering Society K-12 Education Committee, both a Girl Scout and Cub Scout Leader, an Orange County Regional and State Science Fair judge, an accompanist for middle and high school band students, a middle school Sunday School teacher and as a chaperone and bus driver for high school service trips.
Aside from tenaciously pursuing her degree and certification to become an educator, Connor has also been practically preparing for her career switch by job-shadowing three middle school math teachers at Freedom Middle School. There she was able to observe three different grade levels and three different types of classes, as well as to debrief with each one of the teachers after class. “I was extremely impressed with the different, yet effective teaching styles of all three teachers and I learned many things from watching each of them,” she says. “I received much helpful information and advice.”
Connor’s engineering background can still be seen in her excitement for teaching. When asked what she is most excited about in her new field, aside from teaching and influencing young leaders of tomorrow, the answer is math. “As far as teaching goes, I’m most excited about learning all of the cool resources and ideas available for teach math these days,” she explains. “You can’t believe how many really neat things are out there.”
This August, Connor hopes her new career and longtime dream will become a reality as she moves to become a full-time teacher at an urban middle school while continuing to pursue her master’s degree.
For those who are looking to take a leap, change careers and follow their dream, Connor says the rewards are plentiful. “If it is your passion and if the timing is right – go for it!”
Article by Meagan Murphy