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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Born To Be A Teacher

I received this email from Krissy today...

First off I really enjoy reading your blog. I'm a first year vet student at UC Davis. I'm pursing small/equine track (leaning more towards equine) but want to keep my options open. I've tutored college chemistry in the past and really feel I have a passion for teaching. I was wondering how you got involved in teaching college biology and if you were still a practicing vet? Please direct me to your blog if you have already written about this, but I would find any information interesting because I've been considering teaching while also being a part time vet. (maybe a couple years after graduation after I have had the chance to be a full time vet and practice my skills in the field. I've also considered pursuing a PhD and teaching vetmed, but we'll see how much school one can possibly handle :)

Thanks for reading, Krissy!  I hope this is giving you some insight into the real-life situations you'll face in a few years when you've graduated.

My route to teaching was a bit different than most.  Prior to college I would have never considered it as a career choice.  When I was getting my Master's degree I took a job as a Teaching Assistant, basically in charge of running the labs for the intro Biology classes.  I did this just for the extra money, but started liking it.  To find out more about graduate school life and a masters education visit this site that does a decent job of covering some of the specific of pursuing a masters degree program in college.  One semester I had the opportunity to teach an evening lecture course, basically being the full-time instructor with complete control over the class.  I found that I loved teaching, and received good reviews from the students. After that I went to vet school and began volunteering with some other students to go to classrooms and talk about animals, pet care, and being a vet.  Those opportunities were with kids from kindergarten through about 4th grade, and I enjoyed them more than I expected.  However, I still never considered going into teaching full time.  Once I graduated I continued to make myself open to going to local school classes while I was practicing.

The longer I practiced the more I realized that it wasn't everything that I had wanted it to be, and I started looking for other options to do with my degree.  One thing that I kept coming back to was teaching, because I realized more and more that this was my passion.  I loved teaching my clients and staff, but it wasn't quite the same as teaching full-time.  I looked into teaching at a veterinary school, but that would have required me getting a PhD or a specialty certification.  Either choice would have required me to go back to school, making a pittance, and taking another 4-5 years out of my life; none of those options have been appealing to me.  I also looked into teaching at a veterinary technician college, but salaries for that run around $40,000 annually at the most, which is considerably less than a practicing vet can make.  With all of these things in mind, I thought I would have to give up my dream of being a teacher.

Several years ago I was working at a location where I had to commute 2-3 hours round-trip each day.  That became very tiring and very old.  Every day I passed a small local college that was about 5 miles from my house.  One day I started thinking about how much nicer the commute would be if I worked there.  That sparked my teaching interest, and I looked online for any available positions.  They did have a full-time Biology instructor opening, and long story a little shorter, I applied and was accepted.

For nine months I taught there and loved it. It was truly the best job that I've ever had.  At the time my wife was also working full-time, and we began to realize that this made it hard for us to be with the kids enough.  We realized that babysitters and family were watching them more that we would like, and with them getting older we wanted to be more directly involved.  My wife was also tired of her job, so together we decided that she would stop working and be a stay-at-home mom.  Unfortunately, as a teacher I was making half of what I made as a vet, and with me being he sole income again, I couldn't afford to support a family of four.  So I quit the college and went back to practicing veterinary medicine.  I still miss teaching, and hope to one day be able to go back to it.

So, Krissy, that's my pathway.  Because of the scheduling of classes, it might be a little difficult to find just the right job where you can teach and practice part-time. Also, your class schedule will vary from one semester to another, which might be a little difficult with a part-time employer.  But if you can arrange it, you'd have the best of both worlds!  If you wanted to teach full-time and get paid enough to justify your veterinary degree and pay back your student loans, you'll want to get into a veterinary college.  But this will require a PhD or board-certification, and that will take much more time and money.  Frankly, I can't blame you if you don't want to go this route, as I was also tired of school by the time I received my DVM.

Good luck with your studies, Krissy!