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Florida woman starts company to help teachers switch careers

More than 18,000 Florida teachers left the profession last year, and experts believe the trend will continue.
Florida woman starts company to help teachers switch careers
Posted at 6:56 AM, Apr 11, 2024

For months, investigative reporter Katie LaGrone with Scripps News Tampa has shared what teachers describe as specific reasons driving them out of the profession.

But now, she is sharing the story of how one woman is helping some of these teachers find a new start away from the classroom.

“I’m not trying to convince teachers to leave; I’m helping those who want change.”

You might call Lisa Harding a teacher’s teacher.

She spent years as CEO of an online teacher training and development company and was even born into the profession.

“I came from a family of teachers. My parents both met teaching in middle school,” she explained.

So, it got our attention when Harding told us that after 15 years of working to place educators in the classroom, she stumbled on her latest venture, which is squarely focused on helping teachers get out.

“Teachers started reaching out to me asking for help making a career transition into the field that I just left, and I couldn't keep up with the demand,” she explained, adding how the opportunity that was right in front of her posed a personal dilemma.

“I kind of had a moral, ethical question to ask myself, but I realized I’m not trying to convince teachers to leave the classroom; I’m just helping those that want to make a change and giving them the skills that they need to do so,” she said.

Harding and her business partner moved forward, starting the Teacher Career Transition Academy.

It’s an online subscription-based program that offers a step-by-step approach to helping educators switch careers.

Services include a wide range of help, from rewriting resumes to make them less teacher-focused to specialized coaching on negotiating salaries that are above average teacher pay. Annual membership is $500, and members can pay a monthly $57 charge.

“We've had teachers that, since they've left, they've already been promoted or gotten new jobs, and they've doubled their teaching salary within 12 months. It's pretty wild,” Harding said.

Sign of the times

Her company is a sign of the times as Florida struggles to hire new teachers or keep the ones it has.

Last school year, more than 18,000 Florida teachers resigned, representing about 10% of the state’s publicly employed teachers at the time.

Our recent investigation found that some of the top reasons teachers decided to leave the profession included pay, politics, student behavior and overall burnout.

A principal's story

“I absolutely thought I was a lifer. I loved my job, and I think probably if COVID didn't hit, I would still be a principal,” said Michelle Auger, who’s among the thousands of Florida educators who have left the industry in the last few years.

Auger spent her entire professional career, more than 35 years, in education.

Most recently, she was a principal at an elementary school near Tampa.

But after watching her own teaching staff burn out, “it was just so disheartening to me. I think that's really the bottom line for me,” she explained about what ultimately led her to leave.

Auger signed up with the Career Teacher Transition Academy to help revamp her resume by highlighting skills she used every day on campus but didn’t know how to sell outside the profession.

“Project management is probably the biggest one of all. As an administrator, that was one I never would have thought to even put on there, but I’m like, gosh, I do that every day, all day,” she explained about Harding’s services.

Today, Auger is the educational program coordinator for a camp in central Florida. She describes it as a dream job and credits Harding’s company for helping her as the pressures of teaching in Florida continue to leave so many exploring life outside the classroom and how to get there.

“I’m not going anywhere. There's definitely a niche here,” said Harding. I think teachers are going to start to see more and more of their peers thriving in careers beyond the classroom, where they have more flexibility, better working conditions, and better pay. This is only the beginning,” she said.

This story was originally published by Katie LaGrone at Scripps News Tampa.

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