By Heather Sherwin, Special to the Tribune
October 19, 2005
For people close to retirement, the process goes something like this:
(1) "I want to do something later that helps other people."
(2) "I think I'll teach."
According to a 2003 AARP study, more than half of people who plan to work after retirement want work that "lets you help other people." And for part-time work, the most popular choice is teaching.
They imagine themselves as a lecturer in a college classroom, a high school substitute teacher or an elementary school aide. The options for part-time, paid work in education are limited, and some may decide that the training and additional education isn't worth it. Still, opportunities are available. Finding a good fit depends largely on individual motives, education and salary expectations.
The college classroom
Thirty years of experience in the corporate world should count for something. And it does, especially for aspiring college instructors.
At the college level, professional experience and content knowledge is particularly important. Susan Walaszek, manager of recruitment and organizational development for Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, said the school is always looking for new instructors. Positions are posted online and featured at spring and fall open houses.
"Experience is helpful, especially in the area you want to teach," she said. "We want our students to have real-life, practical experiences."
Both credit and non-credit offerings are available to adjunct faculty. Walaszek said instructors receive salary for the three- to four-month course they teach, with no benefits or guarantee that they'll teach again. She said her department recently has seen a greater number of retirees interested in available positions.
"They do it for the love of teaching," Walaszek said, noting that these instructors bring something else to the classroom: "They're role models; they show that you can change, grow and develop, that you continue to learn."
Positions also are available at four-year institutions such as Northwestern University, though most part-time faculty teach in the School of Continuing Studies.
Instructors there might work in the school's non-credit certificate program, which includes areas such as financial planning, mediation and landscape design or in the undergraduate and graduate programs.
About 50 percent of the faculty in the School of Continuing Studies' undergraduate program are professionals in their field, Continuing Studies Dean Thomas Gibbons said.
Although teaching positions are competitive, Gibbons said, the sheer volume of courses offered through the school creates opportunity. Teaching experience is preferred, but candidates with specialty knowledge or an impressive resume are given consideration.
"Our adult students want theory and practice. Many of these instructors bring real-world experience, and that's valuable," Gibbons said.
Courses at Northwestern run 10 weeks and, in the School of Continuing Studies, are offered evenings and weekends. Certificate program courses vary in length.
Lighter demand for substitutes
For years substitute teaching has been a fallback for out-of-work and beginning teachers and for retirees. Although that's still the case, it might come as a surprise to learn that demand for substitutes is down.
"Five or six years ago we had a shortage of subs. But then there were a lot of people in the business world who lost their jobs and went into subbing," said Tom McGuire, human resources manager for the Chicago Public Schools. "Now 99 percent of our positions are filled every day, most by people with teaching certificates."
McGuire said finding substitute positions has become increasingly competitive. Schools often will request individuals on a regular basis, locking out newcomers.
Substitute teaching requires the least education-specific training of the teaching options.
In Illinois, anyone with a bachelor's degree can obtain a substitute teaching certificate from the Illinois State Board of Education for a $50 fee. CPS then conducts background checks and registers interested individuals before placing them on the general call list. Most of the time, substitutes receive a call by 6:30 a.m. to arrive by 8:30 a.m.
In the suburbs, positions are also hard to come by.
Township High School District 211, the largest high school district in Illinois, is generally well set to find substitutes for teacher absences. According to the personnel office, many spots are filled by certified teachers, either just out of college and looking for work, or by recent retirees.
If work is available, substitute teaching does have its benefits. Direct student contact is what many are looking for, and subbing provides plenty of it. Hours are flexible, and the pay puts some money in the bank: CPS pays $90 to $136 per day, depending on education level. District 211 pays $100 per day and $110 per day after 35 days of work during the academic year.
Facing an entire classroom can be daunting, so many retirees contact private tutoring centers. The hours are ideal, almost all positions are part-time and tutors may choose the days and times they'd like to work. The centers do all of the preparation for their instructors, who need only come in and implement carefully crafted lessons.
State certification needed
However, the requirements to work at centers such as Sylvan Learning Center and Huntington Learning Center may come as a surprise.
Both companies hire only state-certified teachers--ideal for retired teachers, but quite an undertaking for those who would need to acquire the credentials.
"It's more difficult for career changers," said Bev Sucker, assistant director at the Huntington Learning Center in River Forest.
"Teaching experience isn't always necessary, but if they have that certificate, they've probably been in the classroom."
One exception is the center's ACT/SAT prep class, which can be taught by non-certified tutors. In general, however, Huntington looks for individuals with experience in test-preparation courses.
Lower salaries also have held people back from these positions, said Bill Tsihlopoulos, director of education at Sylvan Learning Center in Schaumburg.
"People expect more money. Compared to private tutoring, we pay a lot less," he said.
Both Sylvan and Huntington pay $10 to $17 per hour, depending on experience. They are always seeking new tutors, particularly for math.
Supported by the national non-profit group Civic Ventures, this new initiative can fulfill the need retirees cite to "give back." Tutors for Experience Corps are considered volunteers, but they receive a monthly stipend.
Beginning this month, three Chicago Public Schools will benefit from the assistance of 24 Experience Corps tutors. The teachers, all at least 55 years old, will work one-on-one with selected students at New Sullivan, Copernicus and Bontemps Elementary Schools. During 50-minute sessions, students who have scored about 50 percent on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills will focus primarily on reading.
"With us spending dedicated time with these kids, we hope to put them over that hump," project director Alexis Ashley said.
Tutors receive $225 per month and are expected to work 15 hours per week.
"They're not going to get rich, but it helps to cover expenses," Ashley said.
Chicago is the 14th city nationwide to participate in the program. Volunteers must be at least 55 years old, in keeping with Experience Corps' mission to involve older adults.
On board in Chicago are a retired nurse, sheriff, store clerk and bus driver, among others. And although many tutors live near the schools they'll be working in, that's not a requirement.
From nurse to tutor
Lizzie Brown, 65, who lives in Beverly-Morgan Park neighborhood, said she signed up so that she could "give back some of the help I received." Brown grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing development and said "to get out of the projects, I had a lot of help from God and the community."
Brown retired from a 35-year nursing career in February. Not long after, she saw a flyer advertising the Chicago Experience Corps and decided to participate in the summer pilot program at Bontemps.
"I loved it. I learned so much about our educational system. And the kids--they need someone to help them if they want to graduate. They've got so many issues. Some come to school everyday hungry. Some get no attention at home at all," Brown said.
Brown signed on for the fall session and will work with students at Copernicus.
"I'm thankful I'm able to. Some want to, but they're not able to, physically or some other reason," Brown said.
Plans call for the program to expand to five schools in 2006 and eight schools in 2007. Mary Ellen Guest, executive director of Working in the Schools, a Chicago tutoring and mentoring program, said the timing, which coincides with Baby Boomers retiring, couldn't be better.
"Baby Boomers are going to change retirement. Nowadays, people want to be engaged," Guest said. "What better place to be a part of than to help kids in the area of literacy, and also provide a mentor, a grandparent."
Ashley is still looking for volunteers to begin this fall. Candidates must fill out an application and interview for the position before undergoing a background check. More information is available at www.witsontheweb.org.
NOTES: Special section: Prime Time
GRAPHIC: PHOTO (color): Elnada Payne, an Experience Corps tutor, works with Fabian Vega in New Sullivan Elementary School's library. Tribune photo by Ed Wagner.