New Jersey seeks laid-off traders to teach math

Fri May 22, 2009 11:24am EDT
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By Claudia Parsons

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (Reuters) - When Scott Brooks got laid off by American Express in February he decided to turn his back on finance and revive a dream he gave up on many years ago -- to become a math teacher.

He happens to live in New Jersey, where state education authorities have long worried about a dearth of math teachers.

Last week he heard about a new program called "Traders to Teachers" being set up at Montclair State University to retrain people in the finance industry who have been laid off in the deepest crisis to hit Wall Street since the Great Depression.

"You get really comfortable with your career, and I was making six figures, and it was nice," Brooks said shortly after an interview at the university to determine his eligibility for the program, which starts classes in September.

"Sometimes the house has to be on fire before you leave its comfort and start on your journey. The credit card business and Wall Street overall is like that house on fire," he said.

Brooks, 39, has two children aged 8 and 10 and has been coaching soccer and baseball at local schools for several years -- an experience he says revived an interest in teaching that dates from his undergraduate studies in math and education.

The university's 101-year-old College of Education received 146 applications for 25 spots in the first round of the program, which offers three months intensive training followed by a job at a high school in January. The first year on the job includes close mentoring, and after two years probation they can become fully certified math teachers.

The United States has one of the worst high school dropout rates in the industrialized world and its students rank below those in other Western countries in reading and math scores.   Continued...

<p>Scott Brooks squats during a coaching session for his Little League Baseball team in Metuchen, New Jersey May 22, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>