Entering Education Field Can Prove an Exciting Path

NOTE: This Op-Ed originally appeared in the Oakland Tribune.

Most of the graduates of the class of 2015 have yet to settle into their first job out of college, but they’re entering the workforce at an interesting time.

With a recovering economy and ever-changing technology, they have options for work and jobs that didn’t exist only a few years back. A few years from now, there will be even more.

My question is: what legacy will they leave?

For all the glitz that’s out there — in Silicon Valley, in start-up ventures just begun, and more — there’s also quiet glimmer. I hope they’ll consider that as they find their way.

That glimmer is in the eyes of every single young person in our country. They’re not so far removed from the class of 2015. And their futures depend on all of us.

As this year’s graduates shape their legacy, I hope they will consider a career in education, as a teacher or in education administration and leadership. Every student deserves great teachers, and every teacher and school level administrator deserves great leaders working hard behind the scenes on their behalf.

As a newly-minted graduate from Notre Dame, my first career step was into a classroom in Montgomery, Ala. My experience as a teacher was powerful and life-changing. In fact, it informed all of my future steps, as I moved from Stanford Law School to Aspire Public Schools, where I served as the organization’s first legal counsel. I then launched a non-profit organization, Education Pioneers, to recruit more talented people into K-12 education leadership.

There are possibilities in education even for people who don’t feel a call to the classroom. Skilled leaders and managers make a tremendous impact in education. In fact, a study from the Wallace Foundation found that strong leadership is second only to teaching when it comes to what students learn in school.

The work that leaders in education take on is complex and challenging. Many roles outside the school building — in finance, operations, human capital or marketing — look similar to what you’ll find in other sectors. Except in education, the stakes are much higher.

For example, we are extremely proud of our 10-year partnership with the Oakland Unified School District. One of our alumni, Roxanne Phen, now works full-time at the district and helped the human resources department transition from working in a paper-based way to a fully-fledged, 21st Century way by collecting and analyzing a broad range of data about the district’s workforce. What could be more satisfying than to help place a quality teacher in every classroom?

Graduates can help solve the problems in education, and odds are it will bring them great joy. Eighty-three percent of our Education Pioneers alumni who continue to work in education report they’re satisfied with their impact and contribution to society (compared with only 54 percent of our alumni in other sectors). Another 75 percent of our alumni in education report satisfaction with the opportunity to innovate (vs. only 62 percent of our alumni working in other sectors).

Working in education provides a lever to effect meaningful change for students and communities. In the words of Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.”

Scott Morgan Scott Morgan is the Founder of Education Pioneers. He founded the organization in 2003 to identify, train, connect, and inspire a diverse group of leaders and managers to accelerate systemic change across the education sector. An educator, attorney, and social entrepreneur, Scott believes that talented leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds can transform education for all students. Follow Scott on Twitter at @scottmorgan1.

By Scott Morgan, June 3, 2015