Teachers reflect on past careers, encourage others to follow ambitions

Taylor Everson, staff reporter

High school and college have flown by, and now it’s time to pick a career and decide on a future. Many people have an idea of what they want to do, and believe that once they choose one career path, their future is set. However, there are several teachers at South who have had previous careers and later decided to switch to teaching.

Social studies teacher David Kane had always wanted to be a judge after watching old movies and TV shows. According to Kane, law school was challenging for him, but as a political science major, he was really interested in learning about the law.

“As a lawyer, winning trials is always awesome,” Kane said. “You put in the hard work and you know you’re in the right, but there is no guarantee that a jury or judge will see it your way. [When you] get that result that you think is the right result, [it] is pretty rewarding.”

However, Kane said that overtime, he started to realize from his work with judges that being a judge was not what he had thought it would be like. Kane said that it started to feel more rewarding for him to teach new lawyers then to actually practice law.

“I think I was a little bit naive because I didn’t realize how political judges were in Illinois,” Kane said. “In Cook County and Lake County, you have to be really involved in politics and donate time and money and all this other stuff in order to run for judge, which I  just didn’t want to do. It took a long time to finally pull the trigger and leave the law and go back to school to get the teaching degree.“

Kane said that although the process was hard, there is not a day where he regrets his decision.

“In my AP Government class, we put on a couple of debates,” Kane said. “The students who organize [the debates] really, really enjoy doing that. To see kids actually apply and use what you teach in class in real life and enjoy what they are doing is the biggest reward.”

Similar to Kane, Chemistry Teacher Jennifer Friedmann had always been interested in her previous career. According to Friedmann, she had been a dancer and was interested in acting since she was little. Friedmann said that when taking pre-medical courses at college, a friend recommended she audition for an upcoming play.

“[Acting] was everything I had dreamed of doing,” Friedmann said. “I found myself doing it because that was my creative outlet in the middle of a tough schedule of my challenging science classes I was taking. I loved every minute of it. I remember one dress rehearsal with my chemistry book out where I was trying to study for a midterm while at a tech rehearsal, which is no way to study for a chemistry exam.”

Once she became more serious about acting, Friedmann said she started to move away from her challenging pre-medical classes to focus on her acting career. According to Friedmann, however, she said she started to feel like she wasn’t having a happy life as an actor, and wanted to satisfy her science dream.

“Acting was exhausting, creative, exciting, fun and also very emotionally taxing,” Friedmann said. “I loved the acting part – all of that was fantastic – but it was hard figuring out how to make ends meet and knowing that I wasn’t guaranteed success just because I worked really hard. I also always felt that chemistry and I had unfinished business. I signed up for night school classes and this time I knew what to expect in terms of how to study for the content and what I had to do to well in these classes […] because I had been through it once and failed.”

According to Friedmann, although she loves her teaching job, she could never choose between acting and teaching.  Friedmann believes that she’ll return to the theater again one day, and knows of actors who had gone back to acting after retiring and have had successful careers.

“I feel like I’ve barely cracked the surface on how to be a good teacher,” Friedmann said. “This is my 12th year teaching and I’ve just gotten to the point where I feel intuitive about it in the way that I felt intuitive about theater. [However], it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point after I retire I’ll be like, ‘Ok! Now I’ll be the old lady in whatever show you’ve got.’ I’ll love that just as much.”

Daniel Hart, math student teacher, is in the process of becoming a teacher after switching from being a stock trader. According to Hart, his father had been a trader, so it was natural to go into trading. However, he said that he had always considered teaching.

There became a point in my career where I knew I wasn’t going to trade for the rest of my life,” Hart said. “Trading was very solitary, and now [with teaching], there is a lot of interaction. It feels more alive. Those moments when you see the light bulb go off in a student when you’re explaining something is the best.”

Hart, along with Friedmann and Kane, said the best advice is to follow your passions.

“If you are looking to switch careers, just do it,” Hart said.  “I think I waited on it for awhile because there is that fear of the unknown and you’re comfortable in what you’re doing. [I’ve realized that] sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. You’re afraid of what’s going to happen, but that’s part of the fun and the process.”