One woman turned her interest in teaching into
a second career
January 8, 2010
Barb Harrington took
advantage of a company benefit during her 34-year tenure at
Qwest, the metro's telephone company. And it paid off in the
form of a new career for the 59-year-old
left Qwest in 2004 and now teaches English as a Second Language
and Spanish classes at Des Moines
College and through the Des Moines Public School's
adult education program.
"I always wanted to be a teacher," she says. "I have control
over what I do every day. Teaching is a very brain-draining job,
but really a challenge. It's a different kind of challenge from
my other job and it's very rewarding."
She enjoys teaching mostly adults. "There's a
difference between students who have to be in class and those
who want to be in class," she says.
And she is learning from her students, too.
"I have students from Africa,
Thailand, Burma, Ecuador,
Mexico, Sudan, Bosnia,
Iran and Rwanda," she
says. Meeting them she has given her a chance to "see the world
through other people's eyes."
Harrington started her career with Qwest (which went by several
other names over the years) as a central office and customer
service technician. "We built trunk and translation (lines) for
14 states," she says.
One of the benefits the telephone company
offered workers was subsidized education. Harrington began
taking night classes at
earning an undergraduate degree in history and Spanish. Then she
started on a master's degree. When Qwest offered a voluntary
separation package six years ago, Harrington did some soul
searching. She was already teaching some continuing education
classes for DMACC and was financially able to retire.
"There was also the threat that at any time
you could be laid off," she says. She left the telephone company
with plans to enjoy retirement with her husband Merrill.
was teaching Spanish when the opportunity arose to teach the ESL
"It doesn't really feel like a job," she says. "It doesn't pay
as much as I used to make but I am just really enjoying it."
She works about 25 hours a week at DMACC and six hours at the
public schools. That leaves time for her other passions - being
a grandmother and gardening, genealogy and traveling. She also
works a travel agent, and dabbles in writing and photography.
Her advice to others considering career
changes: Explore jobs and careers you're interested in.
"I volunteered years ago at a Spanish clinic at Guadalupe Chapel
to see if I would like it and could do it," she says. "It's
always better to find jobs that incorporate what you like to