Retirees Take on New Career: Teaching

Nov 11, 2011

The expression 'you're never too old' certainly applies to the thousands of individuals who have decided to take on another challenging career after retiring: teaching. Some schools actually recruit retired persons to fill teaching positions. Education Insider takes a closer look at people over the age of 50 choosing teaching as a second or 'encore' career.

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By Harrison Howe


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Golden Years and 'Dear Old Golden Rule Days'

Whether it's because they're up for a challenge, need income or simply want to remain active, retirees are tending to look to teaching as the answer. Putting their professional and life skills to good use, some of these individuals are finding new life within the halls of academia.

'It's like having 150 grandchildren,' Walt Patteson, a 65-year-old widower and high school chemistry teacher who has had two prior careers, told The New York Times in September, 2011. And 56-year-old Paula Borgasano, a formal medical secretary who now teaches second grade, considers herself a mentor to younger colleagues 'based on (her) life's experiences.'

It's hard to say just how many retirees are now in teaching positions simply because this information is not tracked officially by any organization. The National Center for Education Information, a nonprofit research organization that collects and analyzes education and teacher preparation data, does provide information about new teacher hires. It's 'Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011' found that around 30% of the 54,000 new hires in the 2007-08 school year already held college degrees and came into the profession later in life, though how many of those individuals are retired or over 50 is not recorded.

It is predicted that by 2020, some 440,000 new teachers will be needed for elementary and secondary schools alone, with subjects like math and science most in need. The U.S. Department of Education even offers a website,, that lists information for older people seeking a teaching career.

What makes it easiest for this group to pursue teaching positions is the alternate preparation route that is offered by all 50 states. Though details vary from state to state, these alternate programs generally allow for those holding college degrees and with prior work experience to bypass many of the traditional requirements to becoming a teacher, including the completion of specific college courses and time spent student teaching.

And schools are not the only places where retirees can utilize their skills to become teachers. Community organizations, corporations, adult education programs and tutoring companies are also open to those who have completed one career and are ready to take on another. In short, to apply the wisdom of their golden years to the 'dear old golden rule days' of learning.

Education Insider addresses questions you should ask yourself and resources you can utilize when considering a career change.

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