Changing Majors, Changing Lives

Quality teachers are always in need, no matter what the economy.

Tyler Hotz
"Being a teacher means being a positive role model for your students," said Tyler Hotz, a student teacher at Taft Middle School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"During my sophomore year, I was taking classes for a [career] that would make me sit in an office...behind a computer...all day," recalled Tyler Hotz, a senior from Lone Tree, Iowa. A sedentary, solitary future didn't hold much appeal for Hotz, especially when he compared it to the joy he received while volunteering with the fourth- and fifth-graders at his church. The interaction, the energy and the synergy helped Hotz see that kids, not computers, were part of his future.

Hotz, a computer-science-turned-education major, is currently teaching eighth-grade math at Taft Middle School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After graduation, he hopes to teach math at a high school.

According to the 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook, job prospects are best for teachers in high-demand fields, such as mathematics, science and bilingual education, which puts Hotz in good stead.

"I'm not saying I'm guaranteed a job, but I feel comfortable that I'll be able to find work," he said. "I decided to become a teacher because I'm comfortable with and enjoy math, and because I want to work with kids and be a positive influence for them.

"If finding a teaching job seems scary, there are ways to make yourself [stand out from] your competition. Do volunteer work. Get a minor or some other education that makes you more appealing to schools [that are hiring]."

It goes without saying that a teaching degree from UNI makes graduates more appealing. In fact, nearly 23 percent of Iowa's teachers and 29 percent of Iowa's superintendents and principals graduated from UNI. What's more, at any given time, between 2,500 and 3,000 UNI students are declared teaching majors, making UNI's program the largest in the state. One of those students is Ariel Wilson, a senior from Ankeny, Iowa.

Ariel Wilson
"I've learned so much by being in the classroom and working with students every day," said Ariel Wilson, who is completing her student teaching at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I changed my major a few times and finally decided on a teaching major at the end of my sophomore year," said Wilson. "I've always known that I wanted to work with high school-age students and make a difference in their lives. I decided that teaching would be the best way for me to have an impact and fulfill my passions."

Among those passions are providing students with opportunities for lifelong, meaningful learning, which Wilson found during her current placement as a student teacher at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa. After graduating in December 2010, Wilson plans to teach English and sociology to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.  

"Student teaching has been one of the most meaningful and challenging learning experiences I've had in college," said Wilson. "I value the many opportunities to be in the classroom and learn through practical experiences."

We've all heard about state budget cuts that are eliminating academic and co-curricular programs, putting teachers' jobs at risk and stalling pay increases. Some may say that now is not a good time to go into teaching. To Wilson, there's always a need for committed teachers with a heart for helping students. "It's more important to be in a profession in which I can make a difference and grow as an individual than to only be in a profession for the money," she said.

Learn how you can make a difference. Check out the College of Education.