New Career Pathways for Teachers


I absolutely loved being a teacher. Some of my best times have been spent in front of little kids, seeing their eyes light up over numbers and their hearts open up over books. I wanted to stay in my rocking chair with little amazing children at my feet teaching me how to make the world better. But then there came a time when I just couldn’t do it anymore.

The meetings, the expectations, the planning, the parent emails, the wondering if Jacobi would have a home to go to at night, the worrying that Samara didn’t see how amazing she truly was. For a while, it was bearable and could balance out the magic that took place in the classroom.

Then it couldn’t. When my daughter was born, I came to a crossroads. The fierceness that I felt about my students was rivaled by the primal love I felt for my daughter. I honestly couldn’t imagine how I could fit both in my heart. How could I care so much about so many little beings? But really, it was all the “other” things that as a teacher I was expected to do and as a teacher I was expected to be. Those were what took the most toll.  

The other thing: Money. There was no way that I could make enough money to support my family in the SF Bay Area. If I wanted my daughter to have more opportunities, I would need to make more money. Even before having a child, my pay barely paid the bills. There wasn’t hope for much improvement in the future, no big bonuses or new positions. Looking forward, I could slowly climb the district pay scale and make perhaps an extra $50 per month each year.

And another thing: Creativity. My favorite part of teaching was to see the wonder in my students’ eyes and transform that wonder into knowledge. But all those “little” things I mentioned (meetings, emails, worries, expectations) wore me down. When you’re tired and burnt out, it’s hard to muster up your creativity. It’s hard to create and deliver the lessons that your students truly deserve.

So all this led me to a crossroads: What should I do? I had been trained to believe that there were three options for teachers:

  1. Stay in teaching forever

  2. Become a principal

  3. Leave education

I was tempted by #1, but #2 and #3 never held a chance. When my daughter was born, I decided to make a #4: Stay in education, make an impact outside of the classroom. And I discovered how meaningful this impact could be. I began to see how teachers are assets in any situation. How we need teachers to write curriculum, to coach other teachers, to make education policy, to advocate for students, to stand up for teachers, to inspire radical learning, to change the landscape of education. We need teachers to do all the things they don’t have the capacity to do when they’re in the classroom.

Teachers shouldn’t be expected to stay in the classroom forever. There are so many career pathways that can empower teachers to make an impact inside AND outside the classroom. When teachers step into different positions, we get leaders who have the future in their hearts. Teachers are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.

Lily Jonescareer options