Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Karen Buchanan, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Gary Sehorn, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Joe Bridgerman, Ed.D.


Teacher attrition and shortages are a rapidly expanding issues across the U.S. that accelerated during the pandemic. Understanding why teachers persist in a profession where so many leave has become of paramount importance for educational stakeholders as they look to recruit, train, and retain new professionals. Second-career teachers now represent a growing percentage of these new educators; they enter a challenging field in the wake of so many departures. This hermeneutic phenomenological study explored the unique lived experiences of four current PreK-12 second-career educators who came to teaching from an education support staff role, and who have persisted in the profession at least five years. Through interviews and participant created written artifacts, this study explored the nature of their persistence, along with how and why they chose to move from their role as education support person to teacher. Four overarching themes were identified: 1) intrinsic altruism served as both a motivator for entering the field and an influential factor for continued persistence, 2) the ethic of care was a core value, 3) participants prioritized practices of student-centered pedagogy, and 4) relevant prior experiences as education support staff influenced their work. This study offered insights and encouraged awareness about this distinct subset of educators while offering the possibility for supporting other teachers in the broader field. This study’s implications point to the theoretical ideas of person-job fit and cultivating teachers' sense of self-efficacy as a means of understanding second-career teacher persistence.

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