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1.7: What are some non-traditional educational careers?

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    Learning Objectives

    • Advantages and Disadvantages of non-traditional educators
    • Creative Methods and Techniques
    • Value of Feedback.

    There are many new approaches to recruiting educators in high need subject areas including alternative and expedited routes to teacher licensure and career switching programs in order to gain the expertise of educators with previous professional work experiences. Many people who are considering a career change look to teaching as a way to incorporate and apply their existing knowledge in a content area. Many elementary, middle, and high schools are actively accepting applications for teachers in what the Virginia Department of Education calls the “critical shortage areas such as mathematics, foreign languages, sciences, and technology education” (Education).

    However, there is yet another educational career opportunity that is emerging and gaining respect and popularity in the classroom by the students and teachers!

    What is a non-traditional educational career?

    Classroom based teachers are taking their students outside of their classroom and visiting science, nature, and history centers seeking more effective learning (Price). These centers employ educational coordinators who deliver information to students through unique and creative methods. These non-traditional educators, sometimes called “field teachers” (Payne), bring a unique edge to the educational experience for students and teachers alike.

    Non-traditional educators integrate different learning methods to meet the needs of different types of learners in a real world setting.

    They incorporate new knowledge with social interaction by prepare exciting lessons and creative activities for the students such as inside of the classroom or outside during a field trip.

    Non-traditional educators work with school teachers to meet the needs of the students and lesson plans as well as work with a school system’s high expectations that the experience will be worthwhile (Payne).

    Are they effective?

    Non-traditional educators who present information to students through field trips, guest lectures, and other types of class demonstrations are gaining recognition for their effective teaching styles.


    Non-traditional educators have some advantage over the traditional classroom teachers and lesson plans. “Teachers teach daily. If there is an important message, a different instructor can be a breath of fresh air to the students. If an important message is taught incorrectly, you are sending the wrong message, and in my case, it could be deadly.”(Packett, 2009)

    Non-traditional educators are an expert within the subject matter being taught. They generally present the same information to audiences on a regular basis. Packett discussed his advantage of his work history and experience that provided his concentrated knowledge base. It allowed him to "hone in on it and perfect it.”

    Although field educators have advantages over a classroom based teacher, a cooperative relationship can be established. Pre-visit and post-visit classroom based lessons can emphasize the learning experience. Also, guest speakers and field educators can give validity to the classroom teacher by repeating terms and lessons that have been introduced in the classroom (Payne).

    “we offer things that support and complement” what can be taught in the classroom.


    Non-traditional educators have a limited time to learn the types of students that are present in a classroom or in a class group. This can present as a disadvantage for an instructor. Also acting as a disadvantage is the limited amount of time to present subject material given the distance for travel or time restraints that surround the field trip or classroom period.

    Student Benefits

    Non-traditional educators recognize that students learn in different ways and there is a responsibility to teachers to present new knowledge in a way for all types of learners to benefit. Some students need to have a reason for learning, some are able to learn new facts without needing a personal connection, while some students benefit most from exploring and learning firsthand (Payne). Non-traditional educators take these differences into consideration and use various teaching techniques to connect to as many individual students in a classroom.

    Connection to their world

    Students benefit from out-of-the-classroom opportunities that non-traditional educators present for many reasons. The presentations allow students the chance to connect with a new environment outside of the classroom. Also, students are eager to learn if the lessons of the classroom can be applied to their real world (Payne). Teagle further explains, “we are also teaching students the value of working in the field. History is not just in books, but in the artifacts.”

    Alternative to Lectures

    Some non-traditional educators use constructivist principles and social interactions using small groups as an alternative to lecture methods (Payne). Payne explains, “Telling is not teaching”.

    Small, interactive groups

    He explained that during field trips, smaller groups led by parent chaperones and teachers allow for easier orchestration of rotating stations, maximizing the amount learning for students and exposure to new material. “When I’m in the classroom, I tend to have larger groups. When groups get large, retention goes down.”

    A unique perspective

    When students and teachers take field trips and visit farms, museums, and other places, visitors "get the sights and smells and all of the student’s senses are filled" (Packett, 2009). Teagle adds, “we offer a different perspective of the 1700’s and a unique setting to the students. We are teaching kids how to make research and learning a continuous process. We are unearthing new information every day, just as we’ve shown them in the artifacts digging station”(Teagle, 2009).

    Who are they?

    Non-traditional educators come from a variety of backgrounds to teach a variety of specialty subjects. They are safety educators, museum interpreters and curators, history and environmental site educators, and trainers for advanced educational workshops.

    A ndrew Packett, Public Relations Coordinator for Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, has 20 years of experience as a non-traditional educator. Formerly a DARE Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for drug prevention, he currently teaches electrical safety to elementary school children. Packett says “Who better to go into the classroom to teach electrical safety, but me. It should be an expert in the field.”

    After spending several years as an interpreter for Shirley Plantation, Virginia’s historic first plantation, Robert Teagle is the Education Director and Curator for [ Historic Christ Church]. His years of experience in interpretation and personal interest in Virginia history offer visitors a unique perspective.

    Some historical and environmental site educators use their settings' existing resources as a tool for teaching. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Port Isobel Island Study Center and Fox Island Study Center offer the perfect setting for their Field Educators to carry out Chesapeake Classrooms courses.

    An interesting alternative is the National Park Service’s Teacher to Ranger to Teacher program that draws from all perspectives as a traditional classroom instructor, a Ranger student, and a field instructor (Interpretation and Education).


    "Instructors draw upon their expertise as professional scientists, authors, historians, artists, and adventurers" - National Park Service, Institutes and Field Schools

    Advice from the experts

    Persue it!

    Robert Teagle encourages all educators who are considering a non-traditional career to "Persue it!" He has created an impressive workshop for elementary age school children, complete with take home art work and post-visit history fairs where children can win exciting prizes.

    Be Enthusiastic!

    Andrew Packett encourages non-traditional educators to incorporate excitement into their presentations. “I come into the classroom very enthusiastic! The level of enthusiasm you must maintain, to capture students’ attention and keep it, can be exhausting!”

    Learn the Terms!

    Packett also recommends familiarizing yourself with the public school system. Field educators should target the curriculum. "You must address the Virginia SOL’s or you may not get into the classroom." Also, if classroom experience is limited, a field educator "must enter the classroom and observe the grade levels that you will be presenting information to. You need to understand the terminology and acronyms in current public school systems!"

    Make it fun!

    Teagle and Packett both agree that field experiences and guest speakers into the classroom must include an element of entertainment. Make it fun! Use active learning and hands-on stations.

    Value of Feedback

    Lastly, field educators place high value on post-visit feedback from classrooms and teachers. Questionnaires can be completed by the students and teachers as well as informal types of feedback such as thank you letters from the schools. Assessments that occur during the educational sessions are also of value. Teagle says "kids provide the best critiques". When performing activities with the children, he critiques his own lesson plans and learns best by doing activities with the children. He concludes that he uses this valuable feedback to help shape the content of future school groups.



    Education, D. o. (n.d.). Virigina Career Switcher Alternative Route to Licensure Program. Retrieved February 7, 2009, from

    Interpretation and Education. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2009, from National Park Service:

    Packett, A. (2009, February 6). Public Relations Specialist, Northern Neck Electric. (R. Crowther, Interviewer)

    Payne, B., Sumter, M., & Sun, I. (2003, Fall2003). BRINGING THE FIELD INTO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE CLASSROOM: FIELD TRIPS, RIDE-ALONGS, AND GUEST SPEAKERS. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 14(2), 327-344. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

    Price, Sabra & Hein, George E. (1991). More than a field trip: science programmes for elementary school groups at museums. International Journal of Science Education, 13 (5), 505-519. Retrieved February 7, 2009, from

    Spencer, J. (Winter 2001-2002). From Traditional to Radical: One Teacher's Oddyssey. Thought and Action - The NEA Higher Education Journal , 93-100.

    Teagle, R. (2009, February 6). Education Director and Curator, The Foundation for Historic Christ Church. (R. Crowther, Interviewer)