Transitioning from Industry to Education: Strategies for Success as a Career & Technical Teacher

By Michele Hill, Education Consultant

McGraw Hill
Inspired Ideas
7 min readJun 3, 2024


In the ever-evolving landscape of education, there’s a growing trend of professionals transitioning from industry to become educators, particularly in career and technical fields. Although I have been formally trained as a teacher, my more recent professional position has been working in career and technical education. I have seen firsthand that these individuals bring with them a wealth of real-world experience and expertise, enriching the learning environment for students. However, transitioning from a corporate or industry setting to the classroom can present its own set of challenges. To help navigate the transition successfully, here are some key strategies that I have been fortunate enough to pass along to new teachers.

Find a Great Buddy Teacher or Mentor

One of the most valuable resources for new educators is having a supportive buddy teacher or mentor. This seasoned educator can offer guidance, share best practices, and provide invaluable insights into classroom management and curriculum development. They can also offer emotional support and encouragement during the transition period, helping new teachers navigate the ups and downs of their new role. Dr. Lisa English, Superintendent of Shore Regional High School and former Director of Career and Technical Education Certificate of Eligibility Educator Preparation Program at Brookdale College (that helps industry professionals become teachers) believes that having the right mentor is critical to the successful transition.

“ There is nothing more rewarding than to watch top-shelf professionals make the decision to pursue a successful career transition from industry to education. The value that industry leaders bring to the table for innovative, quality CTE districts is immeasurable and is a constant that needs to be branded and supported via strong teacher preparation programs, a quality first year, and consecutive additional years of district mentoring across the disciplines,” said English. “Throughout my years working in CTE districts and during my time as the Director of the CTE CE EPP at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, I am confident that my passion for teaching and learning, with a lens on creating the next generation of educators, has made a difference in the lives of many new stakeholders entering the profession. With that being said, the ability for new educators to build their tool-kit by taking away some of my pedagogical best practices and love for the profession has been meaningful to me throughout my career and I can only hope my philosophy has guided the next generation of lifelong learners as they begin to demonstrate mastery within their trade or CTE content area in the classroom.”

Time Management

Time management is crucial for all teachers, but it’s especially important for those transitioning from industry, where schedules may have been more flexible. Establishing a structured daily routine, prioritizing tasks, and utilizing tools such as calendars and to-do lists can help new teachers stay organized and effectively manage their time both inside and outside the classroom.

No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

New teachers often feel pressure to create lesson plans and curriculum materials from scratch. However, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of resources such as textbooks, online databases, and lesson plan repositories to find existing materials that can be adapted to suit your teaching style and the needs of your students. This not only saves time but also ensures that lessons are aligned with curriculum standards.

Establish Firm Classroom Management

Effective classroom management is crucial for fostering a productive learning environment. Establishing a sense of community and rapport with students is vital, alongside setting clear expectations and boundaries. Develop a few key rules emphasizing respect, responsibility, and safety, and consistently enforce them with fairness and compassion.

Dr. Todd Bonsall, Superintendent of Hunterdon County Vocational School District and a former teacher, stresses the significance of classroom leadership. He underscores the need for passion in delivering content with enthusiasm. “Teachers must adapt methods to engage modern students with hands-on, relevant lessons. Confidence in leading and facilitating learning, avoiding passive lectures, and maintaining consistency are essential.” Dr. Bonsall reflects on his own challenging first year, highlighting the importance of staying ahead of curriculum updates and fostering mutual respect with students while maintaining the teacher-student dynamic. “You can’t teach like you were taught many years ago, students need more than a lecture!”

Build a Sense of Community

Building a sense of community within the classroom and beyond is key to fostering a positive learning environment. Connect with students, their families, and your colleagues to create a supportive network. Attend extracurricular events and activities to show your support and build relationships outside of the classroom. Engage with administrators to contribute to the overall school community. Dr. Frank Rudnesky, an education consultant and my co-author of FIRED Up Teachership, believes with all of his heart that the culture you create makes all of the difference in whether you succeed or not. “When you build community, you create relationships that lead to a positive climate and culture. Schools with engaged stakeholders outperform other schools significantly and keep passionate teachers in their buildings.”

Stay Relevant and Continuously Improve

In career and technical fields, staying relevant is crucial. Keep abreast of advancements in your field, as well as new pedagogical approaches and educational technologies. Attend professional development workshops, conferences, and seminars to enhance your skills and knowledge. By continuously improving your craft, you’ll be better equipped to meet the needs of your students and prepare them for success in their chosen careers.

Love Your Students

Transitioning from a corporate or business environment to a classroom can be quite a jolt to the system. In typical professional settings, your worth is often measured by the tangible outcomes of your work, such as products or projects. However, schools operate on a different paradigm; here, the “products” are the students themselves. Your effectiveness as an educator is gauged by how well you nurture and educate these young minds. It’s essential to wholeheartedly invest in your students, to be there for them, support them, and applaud their achievements. You’ll be astonished by the profound impact this approach can have!

Enjoy the Transition

Finally, embrace the transition from industry to education as an opportunity for growth and fulfillment. While there will inevitably be challenges along the way, remember the impact you’re making in shaping the future workforce and empowering students to achieve their goals. Celebrate successes, learn from setbacks, and enjoy the journey of becoming an effective and inspiring career and technical teacher. Rob Crowley, an HVAC teacher at Gloucester County Institute of Technology, knows firsthand how difficult the crossover from industry to the classroom can be, but he embraced the challenge and found so much joy in his newfound career. “My motivation for entering the teaching field came from my HVAC position as a lead technician. As the lead technician, I trained and mentored the new hires who entered the field. I loved sharing my knowledge with them and received tremendous inner enjoyment when they learned something new from me. I love teaching when the learning in my classroom is palpable. I can sense it in the quickening pace of a roundtable discussion or a student’s visible delight in using newly learned jargon. It is especially gratifying when I hear the excitement in a student’s voice when they have mastered skills that they learned in class, or when theories are transformed into practices and perspectives. It doesn’t get any better than this!”

Transitioning teachers frequently originate from the career and technical industry, yet the strategies this article for transitioning from the corporate world remain consistent. It should be all of our priority to welcome passionate educators committed to making a difference in students’ lives, in ways to support their success. Ultimately, their achievements contribute to the success of the school as a whole!

Throughout her long career as an educator, Michele Hill has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students and a strong supporter of teachers. Michele has been a guest blogger for ASCD Inservice, McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested and the co-author of Fired Up Teachership and 100 No-Nonsense Things that ALL Teachers Should STOP Doing.

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