By Jamie Shoaf, ‘11
Transitioning from cost accounting to teaching Shakespeare is a lot easier said than done for most. But for Cliff Gamble, C‘12, the shift in careers from the corporate world to the classroom is the pursuit of his lifelong dream to become a secondary English teacher.
Since beginning his studies in the School of Continuing Studies Teacher Licensure Program in September 2010, Gamble hasn’t looked back on his decision to leave a high-profile job in the business world.
“I have always had an affinity for teaching,” says Gamble. “My father was a science teacher, principal and assistant superintendent for 30 years, while my mother worked in several teaching positions as a media and library technician. Teaching is in my blood.”
Prior to enrolling at Richmond, Gamble’s education included an economics degree from DePauw University and a Master of Business Administration in finance from Webster University.
Shortly after finishing school, Gamble began working at Baxter International and eventually landed a position with General Electric. From there, he spiraled up the corporate ladder over two decades with an impressive résumé that includes positions at NBC, Schering-Plough, Amazon and most recently Lexmark International.
With the support of his wife and kids, he decided that he had reached the point in life when it made sense to return to education. All that remained was finding a program that suited his needs.
“I was determined to completely change my career,” Gamble recalls. “The teaching program at Richmond spends a lot of time on the nuts and bolts of education, and all of the professors I have had thus far are long-term teachers and administrators. Learning the art and discipline of teaching through their experiences has been invaluable.”
The success of graduates from the Teacher Licensure Program adds to the prestige of receiving an education from University of Richmond. Gamble remembers a key factor in researching programs. “The school has a very high success rate with teachers — area schools hold the program in high regard and recruit students from the program for that reason.”
While returning to teaching in the middle of a successful career might appear strange to some, the biggest surprise might be his pursuit of an endorsement in secondary English. While many other teachers in the program have teaching experience or majors in their subject matter, Gamble was not an English major.
Gamble reports, “Teachers that I have liked the most were very passionate about what they taught. They made learning relevant and encouraged students to have an opinion. They made every student believe their opinion was important, if well thought out and appropriately presented... Business was my vocation, but I have always been passionate about reading, writing and discussing all forms of literature. So, I choose English as my primary endorsement.”
He plans on obtaining an endorsement in business and economics in addition to English in order to be as well-rounded as possible and to utilize his business background.
At Richmond, Gamble has the opportunity to experience a “real-life” classroom experience that he strives to one day apply as a teacher himself. Professors in the Teacher Licensure Program are themselves successful education professionals; they have experiences in departments of education and school administration. As a result, professors come prepared to demonstrate how to deal with real situations in real time.
Before making the final decision to become a teacher, Gamble recommends sitting in on a classroom to see if you really feel comfortable.
“This [sitting in on a class] isn’t something I had the foresight to do before I began the program... luckily I am fortunate to have a lot of teachers in my family that I have had the opportunity to interview or monitor their classrooms,” he says. “To be a teacher you really need to care about kids, and most teachers can tell if you really have the capacity to care for and teach students.”
As he looks forward to student teaching in the fall, Gamble has finally begun to fulfill the dream of his late father as an educator.
“My father always said that a student has no idea what they want to do at age 18, so it is your responsibility as a teacher to create well-rounded students with the ability to take whatever path they choose,” recalls Gamble. “A lot of people end up in business because they think it is what they are supposed to do, but it is most important to really enjoy what you are doing.”