School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Samuel J. Smith


Career Change, Effective Teacher, Elementary Teacher, Second-career Teacher


Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Other Education | Other Educational Administration and Supervision | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to understand how first-career skills were utilized by highly effective second-career elementary school teachers in northeast Tennessee. The guiding research question for the study was: How do the skills acquired in a first career affect second-career elementary school teachers? The theories that guided this study were experiential learning theory developed by David Kolb and transformative learning theory developed by Jack Mezirow as they focus on the importance of experience and perspective in the learning process. The sample for this study was comprised of five second-career elementary school teachers, four elementary school principals, and four district academic coaches in a northeast Tennessee school district. Participant interviews and a focus group served as the primary means of data collection. The analysis of documents, including reflective journals and lesson plans from teacher participants also provided data for the study. Collected data was analyzed within and across cases using open and axial coding. A central theme emerged from the data along with several sub-themes. The central theme focused on the impact that soft professional skills developed in a first career had on the effectiveness of second-career elementary school teachers. Sub-themes that emerged included (a) relationship building skills, (b) organization skills, (c) presentation skills, (d) eagerness to adapt, and (e) content connections. Recommendations for future research included exploring the effects of first-career skills from different professions than the ones used in the study, studying multiple participants from similar careers, and conducting a longitudinal study to track how first-career skills are utilized over time.