Will you still need me when I’m 64?
When it comes to hiring teachers, Houston’s Clear Creek Independent School District’s answer to that question is yes.
Sexagenarian Pauline Trout has had local and state education reporters in Texas spilling ink over her unlikely story as the 64-year-old mother of four (and grandmother of five) began a new career this fall as a teacher.
With alternative-certification programs growing and some schools widening their net to attract nontraditional teacher candidates, Ms. Trout’s story exemplifies changing perceptions on who new teachers can be.
After substituting in the district since 2000, Trout was hired by Armand Bayou Elementary school as a 5th grade reading and social studies teacher. “When I started substituting I said, ‘You know, I really want to be a school teacher. I really like this,’” Trout told the Houston Chronicle, in a recent article.
Ms. Trout’s road to teaching, like many others, has been an eclectic one. Before coming to teaching, the Chronicle notes, she had been a hairdresser, a school librarian, ran her own quilt making business, and taught painting. After getting a degree in social work in 2002, she assisted the elderly at a nursing home.
“I knew lots of things but I didn’t have that piece of paper,” she said in reference to a teaching license. To fill that gap, she enrolled in an alternative certification program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2003.
Harriet Sturgeon, director of the center for professional development of teachers at UHCL told the local Galveston Daily News that Trout “thinks like a young person. She’s so open to new ideas and wants to learn. I would like my own child in her class.”
In the same article, Trout told the Daily News, “I’ve always been teaching … I’ve always been showing somebody how to do something.”
According to the Chronicle, Trout got the job at Armand Bayou through a recommendation from her daughter-in-law, also a teacher.
Via e-mail, Bayou’s Principal Jane Kelling told CAREER COACH, “Ms. Trout has brought a maturity to the classroom that can’t be earned through college classes. Just as our experiences add the ‘color’ to our lives, Pauline’s life experiences enrich her teaching. In turn, her students benefit from her vast knowledge of the world and perhaps, along the way, they will also appreciate the mature wisdom she imparts.”
Though the road to teaching has been circuitous, Trout knew from her first day in the classroom that she was where she was supposed to be. “I knew this is what I want to do. I don’t care who’s here. I want to teach. That’s the way it is. If I can do anything to help these kids, I’ll do it,” she told the Chronicle.
“I feel very lucky the principal believed in me and hired me,” she added.