Former engineer takes alternate path to teaching success, career fulfillment
Seasoned career engineers are choosing university alternative teaching programs as a fast track toward finding their niche in teaching.
Like greyhounds at the starter gate, much of the world impatiently awaits the latest technological marvel created by mechanical engineers. Instead of being one of the waiters, former mechanical engineer Tom Juliano encourages his students to think beyond the status quo.
"I want my students to come away from my physics classes having their minds stretched into thinking and considering things they never have before," said Juliano, a physics teacher and a 2011 graduate of Benedictine University's Alternative Certification Program. "Being excited about learning and being in an environment with others excited about learning is a state of being that cannot be beat," he added.
Juliano states that the abbreviated teaching program, allowing for completion and certification during an eight-week intensive summer session and yearlong paid internship, drew him to the Alternative Certification Program at Benedictine.
The path to certification was alternative but the quality was not. Juliano raves about the program's quality instruction, mentoring and classroom teaching components, which provided sufficient preparation to lead his own classrooms.
The Benedictine Alternative Certification Program uniquely provides a dedicated mentor who guides the candidate throughout the program. Standard teaching programs do not have such a valuable option.
"Mentors are invaluable as they are giving you real-time feedback on methods you are currently using in the classroom and monitoring the direction you go," said Juliano. "They are a true safety net to make sure the path you are taking does not become too littered with thorns."
A school bell was ringing inside Juliano. No. He did not swallow a bell. He answered the call to teach.
"I had a great experience with my advisor in graduate school for whom I served as a teaching assistant," he said. "I continued to mentor and teach other students, and I found that these experiences were becoming (what I considered to be) the highlights of my career, despite other successes related to research and publishing.
"In the engineering field, there are a fairly limited number of 'teaching-only' positions across the United States with the bulk of college or university professor positions being focused on research. Most engineering professors I talked with were in the position because they enjoyed research more than students or the art of teaching. I was the other way around, and so I decided I needed to teach in a high school environment where I could be surrounded by those who could help teach me the art."
With new teachers like Juliano, American math and science complacency should beware. If you are waiting in line and hear bell chimes, it's probably not your imagination. You may be standing next to an engineer/future teacher.
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