Career change teachers: Why they teach

While many teachers at Berkeley High School are drawn to their profession from the start, others find their calling later in life, after pursuing different careers.


While many teachers at Berkeley High School are drawn to their profession from the start, others find their calling later in life, after pursuing different careers. They might not like their previous jobs, or feel that they have a responsibility to help educate the next generation, or simply want to be around the creative ideas of the youth. Here are the stories of three teachers who found the BHS community after working outside the education sector.

Dan Goldfield, an IB Math Applications teacher at BHS, previously worked as the director of information technology at a multinational corporation in Silicon Valley, where he dealt with mergers and acquisitions as well as quality insurance. His main job however, was implementing and managing the computer systems that ran the whole business. This entailed visiting factories and fine-tuning business practices to be more efficient. But after noticing the state of the nation, he decided to pursue teaching.

“Seeing George W. Bush as president made me realize that we needed better thinkers out there. I think a lot of people were just voting and weren’t thinking very well, and I thought the best place I could help do that would be in high school teaching,” said Goldfield. 

Universal Ninth Grade Math teacher Elyssa Thome echoed these sentiments. “I wanted to do something I felt was meaningful,” said Thome. “I was getting really frustrated at work, and I really liked my company. I liked the people I was working with … As far as a job in PR it was the best I could imagine, and I still really was unhappy there.”

Thome worked a few different jobs in communications and the writing sector before settling on teaching. Throughout these careers, however, she remained surrounded by educators and spent her free time tutoring students, which eventually led her to become a teacher.

While Thome loves teaching, she sometimes finds it challenging. “It was a lot easier in office jobs to have a day where I’m sort of working but not working very hard. When you’re teaching you’re on all day,” said Thome. “(But) it’s nice to feel like I did something in the day.”

Goldfield misses having the autonomy to change things on the fly if they weren’t working. “The pace of change in education is glacial,” said Goldfield. “If you move too quickly you upset the class chemistry. It’s more sensitive.” 

Like Thome and Goldfield, Jim Morehead, a student teacher for BHS Physics teacher Jesse Pabico, wants to become a teacher to share his knowledge with students. For over 20 years he worked at various companies, designing and testing lasers, focusing on the mathematical and theoretical analysis that ensured the lasers performed as intended.  

“I’ve spent so long learning about all this stuff and it takes a long time, a lot of concentrated effort. I was thinking that now that I finally understand it, I could help high school students understand it,” said Morehead. He misses having a flexible schedule and the challenge that his old work brought to his life, but enjoys working with young people.

“I absolutely love working with the up-and-coming generation. It gives me hope. Every class I see cross that stage I get excited about what all those people are going to do,” said Goldfield, recalling past students who have gone on to work at NASA, Tesla, or in the government. “It’s always good to connect with them every once in a while and see all the stuff they’re implementing,” he added.