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ATD Blog

Teachers to Trainers: Q&A With Editor Lisa Spinelli

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

K–12 teachers are leaving the profession at increasing rates due to burnout, financial challenges, and health and safety concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, among other reasons. Where can teachers turn for career alternatives—and ones that will allow them to still utilize their education skills and expertise? Teachers to Trainers: Apply Your Passion and Skills to a New Career, edited by ATD senior content manager Lisa Spinelli, introduces teachers to TD career opportunities that offer career growth and development.

1. What prompted you to create this book?

While talking to ATD members and conference attendees, I noticed that many were former K–12 teachers. I thought about how talent development (TD) is a natural next step for a teacher wanting to leave the classroom environment. Teaching and corporate training are seeped in the education field and many of the skills teachers possess are ones that TD professionals have and use, such as presentation and public speaking, curriculum development, coaching and active listening, assessments of learning, and managing a classroom.

Taking note of teacher strikes occurring at the time I started formulating this book, I also read articles on alternative jobs for teachers and alternative career paths and discovered there is a dearth of information in this area. For teachers transitioning into talent development positions, there was little to no guidance on what a new career would look like. What does TD offer? How does one begin exploring options and making a transition? What considerations exist? How have other teachers made the transition? As ATD helps people enter and develop their TD careers, it made sense for ATD to help teachers looking to make a career change, and so Teachers to Trainers: Apply Your Passion and Skills to a New Career was born.

I also felt like I needed to help those teachers on strike identify a better way of life and work. I love helping others in transition—what better way to give back to teachers than to create this resource for them. As the career development senior content manager at ATD, I am always considering ways to help people develop their careers—especially those who are a good fit for talent development. The best jobs for former teachers are ones in which they can apply their already established skills. In this regard, talent development offers wonderful career opportunities that need and welcome teachers’ skills and passion for instructing.

2. Why are teachers leaving the classroom?

Many teachers are meant to lead a classroom. They feel it in their bones from early age and thoroughly enjoy teaching. Other teachers do not enjoy the full package that comes with teaching, however. Like with any job, there are trials and tribulations with being a K–12 teacher. Often, those realities and obstacles are not fully realized until a few years into the profession. Many teachers—as many as one in five, according to a USA Today/Ispos poll in May—are leaving the profession due to the changes and health risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even before the pandemic, the Department of Labor was reporting the highest increase in teachers leaving the profession. Per my research in this area, one of the biggest factors driving this exodus is money. Unlike New York and California, many states do not pay their teachers a livable salary.

A lack of support from their school administration, the community and other teachers is another reason teachers leave for alternative jobs.

Bureaucracy is yet another reason. For example, testing at the end of the year and “teaching to the test” is stifling for many teachers who feel they lose their creativity and freedom in the classroom.

For some teachers, shifting to work in the school’s administration office or within the school system for higher-paying, less classroom-focused professions are the solution. For those who love teaching a classroom full of learners, however, moving away from educating young students into an adult classroom might be a more satisfying alternative, still allowing them to follow their teaching passion.


3. What are some challenges for leaving the classroom?

Like any career change, the fear of the unknown is often the toughest part. Teachers transitioning out of K–12 education must put themselves out there in a way they never have before. The good news is that most talent development professionals are willing to lend a big helping hand when they see someone transitioning into the field. There are also new skills to develop, and finding time to do that might be a challenge as many of us are pressed for time. Another big adjustment is working in a corporate setting. Many teachers have never had corporate experience. They are not familiar with corporate speak and not adept at many common software programs like Outlook or Google Workspace. There will be a learning curve when first switching into the TD profession.

4. What will help teachers make the first step in navigating from teaching to corporate training and talent development?

Putting yourself out there on LinkedIn and finding mentors will help those trying to navigate from teaching to corporate training and talent development. Draw upon the qualities of resilience and perseverance that are required for teaching. Good teachers are flexible. That flexibility will come into play when learning new skills and adjusting to new environments.

5. What is the biggest misconception teachers have about leaving?

In my discussions with teachers transitioning to talent development, many admitted feeling inept to make the transition. At first, they felt as though their K–12 skills did not translate at all to the corporate world. This lack of confidence is a hurdle to overcome, and a misconception. Talent development needs the skills that teachers offer. There are many overlaps between teaching and the adult education and corporate training space, and Teachers to Trainers provides that reassurance.

6. What tips can you give teachers looking to move out of the K–12 field?

Every chapter of Teachers to Trainers offers concrete tips for K–12 teachers moving into talent development. A major tip is for teachers to network. Become active on LinkedIn as a start. You will never know what it is like to be in talent development until you are performing a specific job. However, meeting and connecting with people in the TD field will give you a better understanding of their roles—trainers, instructional designers, classroom facilitators, or coaches, for example. Teachers leaving the classroom have also asked to have their resumes and LinkedIn profiles critiqued by those who left teaching for talent development roles and have gotten great feedback. The more people you know in this field, the better informed you will be of what the roles are like, the different company cultures, as well as job openings.


ATD has expressly created a LinkedIn group for teachers transitioning to training. This is a great group to join to learn from others in transition or others who have already made the leap. Having your questions answered by those who have already done it is invaluable.

About the Editor

Lisa Spinelli is the senior content manager for the career development, talent management, and finance communities, as well as the ATD Job Bank administrator and host of the The Accidental Trainer podcast at ATD. She is also the creator and manager of the ATD transitioning military service member workshops, Troops to Trainers, and editor of the ATD Press book Teachers to Trainers.

Prior to joining ATD, Lisa worked as a content strategist, editor, and journalist for more than 14 years. Some of her freelance work was previously published in Fast Company magazine, Huffington Post, Mental Floss, Northern Virginia Magazine, Houston Chronicle, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Associated Press, to name a few. She grew up in Rome, Italy, and is an alumna of the University of Virginia and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She currently resides in Northern Virginia with her three little divas and USAF veteran husband. Follow her on Twitter @atdcareerdev.

About ATD and ATD Press

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is the world’s largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. ATD’s members come from more than 120 countries and work in public and private organizations in every industry sector. ATD Press publications are written by industry thought leaders and offer anyone who works with adult learners the best practices, academic theory, and guidance necessary to move the profession forward. For more information, visit

Teachers to Trainers: Apply Your Passion and Skills to a New Career
ISBN: 9781952157141 | 212 Pages | Paperback

To order books from ATD Press, call 800.628.2783.

To schedule an interview with Lisa Spinelli, please contact Kay Hechler, ATD Press senior marketing manager, at [email protected] or 703.683.8178.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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