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Scientists as Schoolteachers--Feature Index

College teaching isn’t the only teaching scientists can do; somebody has to teach science to our children, so it may as well be people who know the subject well.

These days, most new science teachers are career changers; thanks to a growing demand in much of the world, midcareer professionals--especially those with training in science, mathematics, technology, computer science, and engineering--are finding professional fulfillment teaching schoolchildren, inside and outside the classroom. When scientists leave the bench to become schoolteachers, they usually bring a deep knowledge of a scientific discipline, a love of science, and insight into how real people do science. Their experience means more maturity than most beginners, and that makes them better teachers.

That's all very well for the students, and for the society whose future those students hold in their hands. But what's in it for the teachers? There's satisfaction, for one. Most people say teaching--teaching well, at any rate--is a hard job. But the opportunity to affect children's lives for the better is a major perk. Teachers perform a service to society by inspiring and training the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, engineers--and teachers. And teachers often affect children in other, even more important ways as coaches, mentors, and role models.

And then there's the fact that, although teaching salaries are not especially high, they're usually higher than the typical postdoc stipend. Experts say that potentially permanent jobs are readily available--something you can't say about tenure-track faculty positions. Here's the clincher: Most schoolteachers get their summers off.

During the weeks of 24 and 31 March, Science's Next Wave examines the motives, career paths, and degree of satisfaction of people who left research to teach science to children. We seek out the most efficient ways for scientists to enter the profession and explore related careers in education.

Learning Without Schooling--Science Education Outside the Classroom
Scientists can be educators in places other than the classroom, but as former researchers Jane Snell Copes and Ken Fink have discovered, it takes business skills and a touch of showbiz. Next Wave's managing editor, Alan Kotok, gets the inside scoop from these educational entrepreneurs.

A Surfeit of Schoolteachers: An Italian Perspective
Transitioning to teaching is difficult in Italy--right now, in fact, it's impossible--but Chris Berrie has found a few scientists who have made (or are making) the switch.

Certifiable: Teacher Training for Midcareer Professionals
In the old days, people went to college for years to learn how to teach. But today, people with subject-area knowledge can begin teaching full-time in just a few weeks. Next Wave's editor, James Austin, highlights several American programs that make the transition to teaching possible.

Canadian Teaching and Cross-Border Training: An Interview With a Leading Education Consultant
Next Wave interviews an education consultant who offers perspectives on the training system and current job market, as well as advice about becoming a schoolteacher in Canada.

Scientists Step into the Classroom
Scientists across Northern Europe describe why they picked teaching as a career and the rewards and challenges the job can offer.

Switching Gears
Three former scientists find professional fulfillment after leaving their research careers to teach kids at public or private schools.

Two Problems in Need of One Solution
America needs science teachers. Postdocs need permanent jobs. Can new incentives lure postdocs into the pre-college classroom?

Scientists as Schoolteacher Resources
Next Wave offers a list of links and resources to ease scientists' transition into the classroom.

Comments, suggestions? Please send your feedback to our editor .

Robin Arnette is editor of MiSciNet.

Photo credit: Jacques-Jean Tiziou/ (Courtesy: Wondergy Inc.)