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Online Teacher Certification Helps Recruit New Educators

In her first year of teaching at Arlington Preparatory Academy in Baton Rouge, Megan Hall won District Teacher of the Year. A year prior, she was working at a Home Depot in the same city.

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(TNS) — In her first year of teaching at Arlington Preparatory Academy in Baton Rouge, Megan Hall won District Teacher of the Year. A year prior, she was studying to complete an electrical engineering degree while working at Home Depot in Baton Rouge. She decided to make a change.

With a degree in biology from LSU Shreveport, she looked online and found an accreditation program, iteach, to fulfill the requirements to become a teacher. In two months, she completed the material and requirements, including the content area Praxis test. At the beginning of January 2022, she was hired to become a teacher. She currently serves as the science department head.

What inspired you to pursue a career teaching?

It's been quite the journey. I've done car sales. I've worked in a hospital. I've been a waitress. I worked at Home Depot. I have served many different functions in this world.

I graduated from LSU Shreveport with a biology degree, and I didn't really have a plan of what I was going to do with it. I went into electrical work for a couple of years, and I struggled with my personal identity — who I was, what I wanted to do with my life and what meaning my life had.

I was depressed for a few years, and in 2017 I decided that something had to change because I wanted to matter and make a difference. When COVID hit, I decided to go back and study bioelectrical engineering. I realized that I could not teach myself differential equations — it was too hard, and my ADD would not allow that to happen.

In November, I found iteach and started the program. By the end of December, I completed the practice exam and first four chapters that prepared me for field experience. On Jan. 18, I walked into the classroom.

Since then, what have you learned about yourself?

I have learned that my empathy and ability to relate to issues that the students have empowers me to help them through a lot of their struggles. I can see in them the things that I have experienced as well. I speak my truth, and I make sure that they know I am genuine — I let them know that my room is a safe place.

What grade do you teach?

I teach the four main sciences — physical science, chemistry, environmental science and biology — for ninth through twelfth grade.

Can you speak to what the students have taught you in return?

The students have taught me to be very mindful of my words because they can sometimes be misconstrued. They have taught me to laugh at myself even more. They have taught me to value the warmth, affection and attention of someone who admires you.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about pivoting their careers?

Fear freezes whereas hope can set you free. In this situation, I was hoping for something that would let me use all of my areas of strength and experience for good. Teaching has been that experience — it has set me free to live as an overly sensitive, overly emotional person who can sense when someone is upset. It's empowering because I was always told those things were shortcomings.

Not only that, I have a lot of science knowledge, and it's very entertaining to watch the students make connections. When those aha moments hit, it's just magical. That's what you're there for, to create a safe space and to watch the magic happen.

After the pandemic, do you think that students in high school are more emotionally mature?

It's difficult to say because I have no experience before the pandemic, but in comparison to my childhood, there is a greater understanding of the possibilities of things impacting your life.

I was a junior in high school when Sept. 11 happened, and I 100% remember almost every moment of that day. That was just one day. These kids experienced much of the same type of feelings for much longer.

They are heavily impacted by COVID, and I would say their emotional intelligence has been affected. They didn't have a lot of face-to-face interactions during that time, so some of their growth that perhaps needed to happen was put on pause, whereas other areas of growth have accelerated.

They are definitely more adaptable.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

I want people to know: Don't stand in your own way. I never thought I would teach. I swore I wouldn't. However, making this change is the best thing I have ever done for myself, for my mental health and for my life. There is no comparison.

So, people out there who are thinking about becoming a teacher or thinking about making a change, do it. Get out of your own way.

© 2023 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.