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How I Became an Online Teacher While Still a Stay-at-Home Mom

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There is a lot to love about life as a stay-at-home mom, but the financial reality can be a strain. Putting your teaching license to work as an online teacher is a great way to stay a stay-at-home mom and supplement your income.

The Reality of Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Like a lot of you, I never thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom. However, once I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I knew that I couldn't go back to work. Although making the decision was easy, the reality is that life has its highs and lows—and as much as I loved being a stay-at-home mom, kids cost money. Though I was saving money on daycare, I still had to pay for diapers, formula, clothes, and medical bills for my child. And as much as I loved my child—there were definite benefits of being a stay-at-home mom—I honestly craved a little more interaction than I was getting. I found what I needed emotionally and financially in becoming an online teacher.

A Little Luck, and a Teacher's License

So as I contemplated my financial situation, I realized I had one great card in my pocket—I had not let my teacher's license expire. Any teacher can tell you if you take time off to raise your kids, do everything you can to keep your license from expiring. The second it expires, you end up taking a lot of extra classes to get it active again because requirements change every few years. Fortunately, I learned from friends' experiences and took a few online classes so I had enough professional development hours to renew my license. That way I could keep my 'grandfathered' status that protected my license from changing licensure requirements.

In the United States, there are no different requirements for online teachers compared to traditional classroom teachers, either at the college or K-12 level. So initially, I just began applying for online teaching jobs. If I had been in the classroom the last five years, I probably would have had better luck at finding a job. However, having been out of the loop for a while put me at a disadvantage against other applicants. Then I learned that in my state, like several others, there was an option to earn an online teaching endorsement for my teacher's license.

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Earning an Online Teaching Endorsement

The program was pretty straightforward, and the majority of it I was able to do online at home with my daughter. I completed three classes that covered the pedagogy behind effectively teaching online to K-12 students. I realized after taking this course I would have been a dismal failure teaching online had I not done it, because it hadn't occurred to me in my pursuit how different it would be from my days in the classroom. I figured online teachers just graded papers and answered emails. I was way off.

The other courses covered managing online classes from the software perspective. I was not a technology wiz even when I was in a traditional classroom. I had no idea how the software worked, how to give feedback digitally, any of that. So, this course gave me a taste of what dealing with the software is like. A few states also require an online teaching practicum for the endorsement, but not where I wanted to work, so I managed to avoid that issue.

Finding Online Teaching Jobs

Once I had my endorsement, I took another pass at applying for online teaching jobs. This time, I was a lot smarter about my job search. I started by searching for virtual charter schools in my state. The vast majority of virtual K-12 schools are operated by either by K-12 or Connections Academy. Even though the virtual schools in my state operated under different names, they were still managed by one of these two parent companies, so I searched their job boards and applied online. Not all school are, though; they may be directly managed by the state under their 'virtual charter school district.'

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Initially, to get my foot in the door, I settled on part-time virtual teaching. In some ways, this was a great way to start because it allowed me to find a way to teach online and still keep up with my stay-at-home mom schedule. After being home for five years, I had to figure out how to make it all work seamlessly together. On the other hand, the pay wasn't great considering the number of students you carried on your rosters. As a part time teacher, I was strictly paid on a per-student basis each semester. In some states, part-time online teachers are only paid if students successfully complete the course.

It took a little more than a year, but eventually, I was offered a full-time position at a virtual charter school. This was great because it meant I got a normal teacher's salary and benefits that included earning credit to my retirement.

Life as an Online Teacher and Stay-at-Home Mom

I realize now that virtual teachers do work, and even though I primarily identify myself as a stay-at-home mom, I do give my best to my students. It has required a little creativity, though. For example, when I do have to be 'live' and available to my online students, I make sure to schedule those blocks of time during my kids' naptimes to minimize disruptions. When I do have to make calls to students and families, I try to schedule it in the evening when my husband is home to watch the kids for me.

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Fortunately, most of the grading in my virtual classroom is automated. Towards the end of each quarter, I do have to grade our term assignment. However, most of this I manage to do in a few hours a night after the kids have gone to bed. I chose to do it then because I want to protect my family time as much as possible. Occasionally, I sit grading papers at a soccer game or lock myself in my office on a Sunday afternoon, but those are rare. Instead, I have been lucky enough to find a job that allows me to keep my primary identity as Mom.

By Rachel Tustin
February 2017
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