It’s hard to imagine a career path with more possibilities for today’s graduates than education. Currently, there are thousands of job openings in K-12 education posted on Handshake, and that number isn’t dwindling anytime soon; the demand for passionate, qualified educators is only growing! In fact, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimates that we’ll need 69 million new teachers by 2030 to meet global education goals. But with so many career possibilities to consider, why are today’s graduates choosing to teach?
We sat down with 10 new or future educators who’ve used Handshake to find jobs in the field to hear exactly why they pursued this professional path—and their answers go so far beyond “I like kids.” These honest, heartfelt perspectives might cause you to consider stepping into the classroom for your career, too. And if these educators’ experiences are any indication, you won’t regret it!
Adding representation to the classroom
“I’m Mexican and Filipino, and growing up, I never had a teacher who looked like me,” explains Jordan Fines, an 8th grade public school teacher in Stockton, CA. Recently, Jordan was reminded about the significance of her presence in the classroom when a student from another class approached her during recess to give her a high-five. “This kid I’d never even seen before ran up to me and said ‘I’m so happy that you’re here!’ I didn’t even have him in my class, but he was the only Filipino student on campus—he’d heard that there was a new Filipino teacher. I was providing representation that I didn’t even realize was happening. He’s not even my student, but being able to connect and see people who look like him as educators is important.”
Helping create safe spaces for students
New York K-4 educator Joshua Redd, who was hired by Uncommon Schools using Handshake, is committed to providing a similar beacon of hope for younger kids. “I’m from an area where we need more Black teachers and more teachers of color,” they explained of their decision to teach students earlier on in their educational journey. “I knew that I wanted to be in an area where I could see students that look like me and also students could have a teacher that looks like them–especially at a younger age.” Joshua knows that their energy and commitment to their students will have an impact that outlasts a single school year spent together. “I want to be somebody who is able to nourish and curate the type of school I want for my scholars,” describes Joshua. “I want them to feel safe and I want them to feel affirmed. I want them to feel loved when they come to school.”
Promoting cultural understanding
Jasmeen Kaur, an education student who is originally from India, is excited about the way her presence in the halls of the Indianapolis, IN public school system could potentially influence the mindsets of young learners for the rest of their lives. “I hope that they remember me after they graduate and even after they have their own kids. If you have a positive and loving experience with a teacher, you often remember them,” Jasmeen shared with Handshake about her goals for her elementary school special ed class, which she’s currently student-teaching as she completes her studies. “I hope they learn about my culture as well, and that I can create a diverse environment in the class which leads to positivity and kindness in my students.”
Helping kids feel heard and understood
Margo Tiffany, an elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, loves working with kids so much that she’s encouraged several friends to join her at the YMCA where she currently works. “I think it could be really great to someday work with kids who are learning English as a second language,” said Margo, who opted to add a Spanish minor to enable her to communicate with a broader range of students. “It’s definitely been my biggest challenge in college; I have a friend who’s a Spanish speaker and I’ve had to set up little tutoring sessions with them, because I want to make sure that I know what I’m doing. There’s just so many students who speak two languages at home. I just think it’ll be really cool to have that experience with them.” Margo is currently doing clinical work in the classroom while finishing her studies. Seeing the kids in her classroom has made Margo even more passionate about students having a teacher who can communicate with them in the way that they’re most comfortable, in order to provide emotional security and a safe space where they feel like they can learn in their best environment.
Creating a source of stability
“I grew up in a military home, so I spent most of my childhood moving between different states and schools,” says Rachel Johnson, whose time at the University of Northern Iowa marked her 11th school. “Through my experiences in many school districts and systems (homeschool, charter school, and public school), I developed a deep passion for healthy and supportive education and the significance of it in a child’s life.” Rachel has used Handshake to find several education jobs aligned with her passion, including full-time offers. “I hope to ignite hope and be a light to children who may never know health and stability in any other way, but can always count on it in my classroom.”
Fixing broken parts of the system
Legend Todrick, an Elementary Education major at the University of Northern Colorado, knew early that she wanted to specialize in special education. “I was motivated to become an educator after seeing my loved ones face challenges as an effect of the inequities in education that divide children with specialities/disabilities from their peers. As an educator I want to lessen these impacts in my classroom by bringing my knowledge to best serve every student I may encounter,” she shared, adding that she also had personal experiences navigating these challenges in school. “I’m dyslexic, and I ended up switching schools a lot because I had teachers who refused to file my IEP (Individualized Education Program) and were just like, ‘No, she’s fine. She can do without.’ Eventually, my parents just kind of gave up fighting. By the time I was in middle school, I had to figure out how to adapt on my own with no educational support at all.”
Throughout her college years, Legend has found ways to build professional experiences that’ll better prepare her to become the compassionate educator her future students deserve. She’s worked as a preschool teacher, a registered behavior technician for children with disabilities, and even worked in an overnight outdoor education camp. “I have learned so much about different disabilities and behaviors I may encounter in a classroom,” says Legend, “as well as the motivation behind them and how to understand this different form of communication that many children engage in.”
Embracing personal growth
“I had these two competing job offers,” describes Emma Clark, who recently graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in cognitive science and data science. Emma found herself weighing the pros and cons between an offer from a public policy firm in Washington, D.C. and an opportunity with Teach For America, which places participants in two-year teaching commitments in low-income communities around the country. “Ultimately, I was like: what am I gonna regret not trying? This is something I feel passionately that I could be really good at, and I could feel like I am making a difference,” says Emma of the conundrum she faced during her final year of college. “I can push myself out of my comfort zone and grow in a lot of ways that I didn’t grow in school. That’s when I knew that teaching was the job I was going to go into.”
Now, Emma teaches special education at a public charter school in Denver, CO while simultaneously earning a masters degree, and knows that the job has profoundly impacted her. “There’s not a single day of work that I’ve had so far when I didn’t feel like I left my job like a little bit of a better person than I was when I started the day—and that, I think, is really special.”
Banishing feelings of fear for students
“I hope to be a teacher that is empathetic, honest, and enjoyable. School can be a place of learning and happiness,” says Ella Carter, who decided to change her major to education from pre-med after using Handshake to find a job working with middle school students in Lincoln, NE. “School doesn’t have to be a dreaded place that feels like a prison; it can be more enjoyable than that.” Finding a career path through which she could connect with young learners and positively impact their development made everything click into place for Ella: “When I’m with the kids and working it’s like, wow, this is exactly what I’ve been waiting to do and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be.”
Helping kids fall in love with a new subject
“I started working at the YMCA doing childcare,” says Samantha Kim, a University of Washington student currently doing her student-teaching internship in a fourth grade classroom in Spokane, WA. “I didn’t think it would turn into my potential career path, but I decided when I started college that I would major in education because I liked working with the kids.” While in school, Samantha gravitated toward math—when she realized she could specialize in the subject and eventually help kids learn to love the subject too, she knew that was the career she wanted to build for herself. After completing her studies, Samantha plans to specialize in math education for kids around the fourth grade age group.
Most of all, inspiring a love of learning in a new generation
“Education is important to me, especially ELL education, because all students deserve the right to learn and succeed in school alongside their peers,” says Rachel Duray, a K-6 ELL (English language learner) teacher in Iowa City, IO who works with a broad range of students who need additional support in class, including children with special needs, refugees, and immigrants. “I strive to create an equitable space in my school where students feel excited and safe. I am a teacher because I love working with children and watching them grow in their learning.”
“I can honestly say that not a day goes by when I regret my decision to become a teacher. Sure, there can be tough days, but when I can see that a child is engaged and interested in what we are learning, it really makes all the difference,” encourages Rachel. “Find those opportunities through Handshake and other campus resources to get into those schools. You will find incredible students and staff!”
Discover your own education career
Whether you’re interested in teaching or just want to see what’s out there in the field of K-12 education, be sure to explore our list of school systems that are hiring on Handshake today. You can filter through thousands of open jobs, from nursing or coaching to teaching and administration, by filtering for location, job title, or specific search term. And if you want even more insights into this career path, be sure to watch our Handshake Class Act session to hear teachers and administrators get real about the job.