Career Renewal: Answering a Call for Teaching

Teaching high school chemistry has turned out to be a calling for me. However, if someone had told me ten years ago that I would be teaching today, I probably would have looked at them square in the eyes and laughed.

Upon graduating from college, I had big ideas of making lots and lots of money. I had just received a degree in chemistry—one of hardest and most respected sciences at Tougaloo College. I knew that something was out there, and I was the right person to fulfill that need.

In my first job, I worked as a research and development chemist for Alcoa Industrial Chemicals. This was an exciting career. I had the opportunity to make new products, take part in the building of new processes, and actually see what was going on inside those tall tanks I used to see and wonder about as a child. I was actually doing what I thought I wanted to do. In this position, I gained a vast amount of experience in managing people, finances, and other resources.

Wanting to build on my strengths and broaden my horizons, I made a career transition to Reckitt-Coleman where we specialized in household cleaning agents. I was responsible for making sure that everything we made was doing what it was supposed to be doing. I was also responsible for seeing that the quality lab was being managed in an efficient and effective manner.

As time progressed, I tried my hands in the field of neurophysiology, studying how the brain grows and responds to certain stimuli or lack of stimuli. Nonetheless, a voice inside of me kept saying that I was supposed to do something else with my life and my talents. In all of my experiences, people always saw me as a teacher. I just never saw this in myself. I never wanted to be bothered with anyone else’s children, but I felt that I could no longer ignore this burning desire to see what everybody else was talking about. I kept asking myself, why I couldn’t see the teacher in me that everyone else saw. It was puzzling, but I overlooked those feelings of doubt, prayed about it, took some tests, and applied to become a chemistry teacher.

I also took time to evaluate and partake in the Hach Scientific Foundation’s Second Career Chemistry Teacher Program which furnishes scholarships to talented chemists interested in pursuing either a Masters in education or teachers certificate. As they say, “the rest is history.”

Since I have started teaching, I have never been happier with my career. I now feel as if I am really making a difference. I now see that my life was not supposed to be about me, but about educating a generation of children that needed me. I can now experience the joy of seeing young children move on through life and be successful.

Before getting into education, life was a routine, but now it is exciting and filled with new challenges on a daily basis. I encourage anyone to accept the teaching challenge, and I dare you to change a life for the better.

This article was written by Kevin L. Gaylor, a chemistry teacher at Jim Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi.

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