Two PIP staff members mark 10 years with the program
What Barbara Ogurek admires most about PIP is that “it treats the whole person.”
From her vantage point as a veteran teacher, intervenor and now assistant coordinator of PIP, Ogurek said that many of the teachers who come to PIP to get their careers back on track are living very complicated lives.
“What I love about this program is that we recognize that complexity and treat each teacher with dignity,” she said. “And what I have learned is that the earlier we get in to help and the longer we stay, the greater the results.”
Ogurek said of her long career, “I’m always growing, always challenging myself.”
When her elementary school closed after she had been there for 18 years, she studied computer literacy while on sabbatical — a venture that “changed my life” — and came back to the classroom as a middle school English teacher.
Looking for other ways to address her students’ needs, she earned a second master’s degree in counseling, which she said gave her new insights that have added to her effectiveness as a teacher and as an intervenor.
Ogurek won a Fulbright teaching exchange award to spend one year at a school outside London. She found that teachers at the British school worked more cohesively, were greatly appreciated by parents and put more emphasis on creativity, something very dear to her heart.
“There’s less fun and less joy in classrooms today” in the United States because teachers are so weighed down by testing and paperwork, and they have less and less time to fit the arts in, she said.
Of her winding up at PIP, Ogurek says it was serendipitous. As a “good union person checking out a chapter leader newsletter,” she said she read about the program and was immediately interested.
As someone who has spent her career seeking out challenges, PIP has given Ogurek one more way to achieve professional growth.
When struggling teachers in the Peer Intervention Program decide to leave the classroom, Linda Pinzon steps in to help make their career transition as gentle as possible.
Pinzon describes her job as PIP’s alternative careers liaison as “my niche, my repertoire….the place where I can use all my skills to help teachers.”
Her skills include years as a bilingual guidance counselor, teacher and family counselor. Pinzon, a licensed mental health counselor with a doctorate in clinical psychology, describes her prior professional experience as the crucible for her work at PIP.
Growing up, Pinzon knew she wanted to be a counselor. She followed in her father’s footsteps as a teacher and moved on from there.
Now she helps the approximately 10 percent of teacher participants in PIP who discover during their intervention that they want to leave education and move on to the next chapter in their lives.
All transitions can be hard, Pinzon said. But it may be hardest for teachers who are well into their careers and have never done anything else.
“In my work, I focus on one sliver of a person’s complicated life,” she said. “But that sliver is critical because so much is invested in what we do, and it defines who we are.”
The work of helping teachers make a transition includes aiding them in searching for new, suitable career possibilities and in updating the skills needed for job interviews and resume writing.
“I keep opening up the possibilities and casting a very wide net to help each one find a new career,” she said. “It may take a long time, but I never let anyone fall.”
Related Topics: Peer Intervention Program