New Careers - In the Classroom

A police officer, a Walmart district manager, a radio personality, an operating room nurse and a DNA lab technician. These aren’t volunteers or Big Brother’s newest cast members, but lateral entry teachers who bring years of real-world experience and application to classrooms in Guilford County Schools.

The 33 individuals represent the newest class that graduated Thursday from the district’s Alternative Certification Track (ACT) program, which earns them a North Carolina Standard Professional I license to teach in the state.

Each teacher gravitated toward the teaching profession, bringing with them hands-on skills and years of experience in the workplace, a benefit to students who are now competing in a global economy.

As an eight-year veteran police officer, Rob Scott says that focusing on education instead of crime has immediately changed his perspective.

“Being in the classroom, I realize that I can have a positive impact on my students,” said Scott, who teaches eighth-grade social studies at Northeast Middle. “As a teacher, I have the chance to really make a difference.”

Brittany Smith, an earth science teacher at Andrews High and former DNA lab specialist, notes the different dynamics her students bring to her classroom.

“The students really shape how you teach, and we learn just as much from them as they do from us,” she said.   

Desiree Acevedo’s 20 years’ of experience as a nurse in the operating room has helped her with classroom management.  

“I managed an operating room and was always teaching as a nurse, so it’s been a natural fit for me,” said Acevedo, a health sciences teacher at Dudley High. “I love building the relationships with students and it’s great to show them that science can be hands-on and fun.”

While the low cost of the program was a big draw for many of the teachers, it’s the support and practical strategies that really make the GCS-ACT program stand out.

“It really challenged me and it was great to learn something on Monday, apply it on Tuesday and then be able to talk about it as a group and bounce ideas off of one another the next day,” said Garrett Gregory, an eighth-grade math teacher at Southwest Middle and former Walmart district manager.

With the license obtained through GCS-ACT, a teacher is able to teach throughout North Carolina, but the district’s goal is to retain highly qualified teachers. Beginning in 2009, GCS-ACT was the first program in the state to offer lateral entry teachers an in-house teacher preparation program that leads to full licensure. The 18 month-long program is offered at a low cost with on-site classes. In addition to the intense coursework, GCS ACT prepares its participants to be successful in the classroom by providing coaching and mentoring.