I hear stories of people leaving teaching all the time. On their last day, they skip out of their school, full of excitement and hope for the future. This was not my story. I never intended to leave teaching. I thought I would be in a classroom until I retired, but I quit teaching due to unexpected events in my life.
My last day didn’t end with me skipping out of school. Rather, it ended in angry tears and a full-on panic attack as I left my passion behind and wondered what I would do with the rest of my life. As terrible as that day was, it has become one of the most defining days of my life. Being forced to quit teaching opened countless doors for me in other areas of education and has led me down a path to finding true joy.
The Real Reason Why I Quit Teaching
After graduating from college, I battled health problems for many years that no doctor could figure out. More than 13 different specialists were completely dumbfounded by my symptoms. For many years, I kept my health problems a secret from everyone, including my teaching colleagues. How do you explain something to people that doctors can’t even explain?
After working in education for a few years, it got to the point where I had difficulty keeping my health problems a secret. The symptoms were seriously impacting my ability to teach. I battled overwhelming fatigue. More than once I fell asleep during an IEP meeting. I sat in my car at the end of every day and cried because the muscle and joint pain were so intense. Scariest of all, my once photographic memory was fading. One of the worst moments of my life was when my principal came to my classroom for an observation and I completely forgot what I was even teaching. I couldn’t remember the lesson at all. I stood stumbling through my lesson plans, trying to get myself together while my principal took notes.
An Unlikely Diagnosis Forced Me to Leave Teaching
Just before my sixth year of teaching, I found myself in the fourteenth specialist’s office. Unlike the other doctors I had seen, this doctor finally recognized what was wrong. I was
One of the first things the doctor said was, “you will need to quit teaching.” She explained that I had one of the most progressed versions of the diseases and would live with these forever. That paired with on-going treat would make it difficult for me to remain in a classroom.
At first, I was determined to prove the doctor wrong. I was certain I would be the one person to defy the odds. The fantasy was short lived. Within two weeks of returning to school, I turned in my resignation. It was clear that not only
I Quit Teaching, Now What?
Teaching gave my life purpose. When I quit teaching, I felt like that purpose was taken from me. On top of dealing with the depression that came with a scary medical diagnosis and leaving teaching, my physical health kept spiraling out of control. Shortly after leaving the classroom, I lost the ability to walk. I was completely bedridden for many months. Basic functions such as getting dressed and bathing required assistance.
On top of my failing health, leaving teaching had created a hole in our finances. With thousands of dollars in medical bills, I had to find a way to help support my family, in spite of my limited mobility. So, I started a store on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Every day, my husband and I prayed that Teachers Pay Teachers would provide enough money to pay my medical bills. When that prayer was answered, we prayed for enough money to supplement my teaching income. You know what? That prayer was answered too!
After several months of being bedridden, I began walking and performing simple activities again. It has been a few years, but I am still not well enough to go back to teaching. But, even though I still struggle with my health, I have found more joy and purpose for my life than ever before. I decided that if I am no longer able to teach, I would make it my life’s purpose to help people who do. Working in many areas of education outside the classroom has enabled me to help teachers and students around the globe.
Jobs For Ex-Teachers
Earlier, I mentioned that my last day of teaching ended with me having a panic attack. That panic attack revolved around me repeatedly saying, “I have a degree in education. I can’t do anything with that if I am not in a classroom.” Today, I look back on that moment and laugh. Teachers have so many skills… teaching, planning, public speaking, counseling, etc. With all these skills there are literally endless possibilities for teachers outside the classroom.
It has taken time, but during my life’s lowest moments, I created a successful education company called Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom. My company performs many jobs to help teachers and students all over the world. Best of all, I wake up every morning excited about what I get to do. Here are a few of the things my company does.
Teachers Pay Teachers
I started my company with a Teachers Pay Teachers store and it changed
Shortly after starting my Teachers Pay Teachers store, I started looking for other areas of income. I reached out to curriculum development companies to see if they had work. Several hired me on a contract basis to create curriculum and assessments. Many education companies do not want to hire a full-time employee that they have to pay a salary and benefits to. Instead, they hire teachers as contractors to create their programs.
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work for some of the largest education companies in the world including Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, and Amco. By working for these companies, my work has reached classrooms all over the world! Best of all, I receive free training from the companies I work for. These trainings have been like getting a master’s degree in curriculum and assessment development.
As teachers, we are good at explaining things in engaging ways that are easy to understand. Did you know it is possible to take these skills and create online courses? It’s true! As a matter of fact, the online learning industry is worth more than $100 billion! And, that is not just online learning created by universities. Experts in different areas are creating and selling their own online courses and membership sites.
After learning about the growth of online learning, I thought about ways I could use online learning to help teachers. This year, I expanded my company by creating an online membership site for first-year, upper elementary teachers. The membership site offers monthly
Overall, there are two things I hope to share with teachers through my health journey. First, we all face difficult situations. In those moments, we can decide to let those get the best of us or we can use them to mold us into better versions of ourselves. Having a chronic, debilitating disease is not fun. But, having this disease has transformed me into a better person and has opened more doors for my teaching career than I thought was possible.
The other thing I hope you learn through this post is there are lots of opportunities for teachers outside of the classroom. Teachers have so many unique skills and there are many ways to use those skills to help others. You may be in a situation where are you are forced to quit teaching (like me) or you may just be ready for something different. If you’re thinking about leaving teaching, think about what areas you excel in as a teacher. If you love developing curriculum and lessons, you could sell your teaching resources online. If you love teaching in front of people, you can create an online course. The only thing stopping you from pursuing what you want is you, so don’t be afraid to dream big and take action!