Olivia Romine is a special education teacher with more than 30 years of experience. After being laid off in June, she knew her chances of finding a new teaching position were slim—especially in this economy. “I’m not going to get a public school job because I’m too old and I’m too expensive,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
Joining the ranks of 8,800 Illinois teachers who received pink slips in 2010, and another 930 laid off in 2011, Romine decided it was time for a career change. She posted her profile on several childcare job sites, including Care.com and Sittercity.com.
“I went into teaching to help kids, so either way—if I’m a nanny, tutor, babysitter, au pair, whatever—I still feel like I’m helping the kids,” she said.
Terri Brax is president and founder of TeacherCare Inc., an 18-year-old licensed and bonded employment agency that matches families who need childcare with experienced educators.The recent economic downturn may have forced Romine to choose private childcare over classroom teaching, but for others, the switch is a preferred option.
In an interview with TakePart, Brax explained that while a tougher education job market increased the number of candidates in her applicant pool, the change was only slight.
“We always have a pretty good supply of candidates who are highly qualified, but yet they are not looking for a classroom type of situation. This is an independent career for them. The downturn has changed it a little bit, but there are some people who are better suited to work one-on-one with children, and they really enjoy the type of creativity they can bring to the position.”
“Some of our teachers come from a Montessori background, others have specialized training in child psychology. Each will have different approaches so we match the family individually with the best type of teacher for their situation.” TeacherCare serves families in major metropolitan areas nationwide, including Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. Unlike other childcare agencies who work with nannies from various backgrounds, Brax’s organization only hires teachers. A full 100 percent have an education or child-related degree, and over 90 percent also have classroom experience in either a school or daycare center.
Brax stressed that the number one reason educators are attracted to caregiving is the level of undivided attention they can offer each child. “Our people love the idea that they can really individualize to a particular child and a particular family’s needs as opposed to working with a large group where they feel like they can’t give the best to each student,” she said. “We’ve had so many situations where teachers come to us from daycare centers, and they come with a broken heart. They know that the children are not getting what they deserve.”
And then there’s the salary. According to Brax, while exact numbers vary depending on geographic area, work hours, the caregiver’s background, and the number of children, the salary for a full-time position usually ranges from $600 to $850 per week. Many families also offer health insurance.
“A lot of our teachers tell us that they’re making more money with the families than they were working in private school settings and daycare settings. They’re working one-on-one with fewer children, they have more freedom, more creativity, and they’re making more money.”
Parents with means jump at the chance of hiring a nanny who’s also a teacher. “Bringing that education background to the home means they’ll be educating children throughout the day,” explained Brax. “It happens both spontaneously and through planned activities. They follow the children and watch their interests and build on that.”
It’s an especially attractive option for moms and dads seeking greater input into how their children are educated, or for those whose children have special needs or gifts.
Ann Dorian is a mother of three who hired a teacher named Terry to care for her three children. Dorian shared the following on the TeacherCare website: “Terry has shaped the lives of our three children in so many ways, responding to each of them uniquely and personally in every area (socially, emotionally, and cognitively) every moment of the day. She understands each child’s developmental level and is in tune to their individual needs, approaching each one of them in her own special way with care and attention…It is hard for me to put into words the incredible impact that Terry has had on our children, our family, and also me, individually. She has truly become a part of our family.”