|Paul Rigel , Lake Wales Charter School District|
Lake Wales Charter School District
Paul Rigel has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology, a masters in religion, and a seminary degree, so when he got laid off after working as an associate pastor for 25 years, his first thought wasn’t about going back to school.
But Rigel, 56, wanted to work with kids. “I wanted to give back to kids who didn’t get what I’d gotten,” he explains.
So back to school he went.
Rigel joined the Educator Preparation Institute (EPI) at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida. One of 29 alternative certification programs in the state, Polk State helps mid- to late-career professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree become certified teachers in eight months.
Rigel took advantage of the resources offered by college staff, including group workshops and individual supports designed to help older students pass the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations.
While taking classes, Rigel worked as a custodian at a middle school in the Lake Wales Charter School District. “I got to know the school and administration during that year and helped out with a lot of activities,” he says. “The very next year, after getting my certification, I got to teach.”
Rigel now teaches agriculture, technology, robotics, video editing and graphic arts at the same middle school. He especially enjoys teaching sustainable agriculture. “The kids plant from seeds, grow food, then cook it. It’s a pure joy.”