In this episode, I interview another Teacher Career Coach course graduate, Delaney Carr. Delaney taught high school math for six years and after taking the course, she now works for an EdTech company as a learning experience designer. Listen in as we chat about her transition, and all about her day-to-day responsibilities in her new role.
Recap and BIG Ideas:
✨ Teachers are expected to work so hard and do so much. This is what lead Delaney to her leaving the classroom.
✨As a learning experience designer, Delaney designs products and curriculum as well as problem solves with UX designers and engineers to be sure the products are serving their customers.
✨ When it comes to applying for jobs in EdTech, be sure to optimize up your resume, focus on new skills you can learn, and practice your interviewing skills. If you can, apply outside of the window between March and July, which is when most teachers are applying for different positions.
✨Once you get into a role outside of education, many people find there are even more opportunities they can move to if their first job isn’t a perfect fit!
✨Sometimes it takes going through uncomfortable times to get to where you want to be. It is ok to seek help to get through those tough times!
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
From High School Math Teacher to Learning Experience Designer
DAPHNE WILLIAMS : Hi, Delaney. Thank you so much for being here today.
DELANEY CARR: Yeah, of course. I’m so excited to get started.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Delaney, I am so happy because you are another one of those Teacher Career Coach course graduates. I love your new role, which is a learning experience designer, am I saying that correctly?
DELANEY CARR: Yeah. You are.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: But I first wanted to start and just hear a little bit about what made you actually make the transition to a new role outside of teaching?
DELANEY CARR: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a bit of a long answer. I taught for over six years at two urban districts outside of Boston, one for four years and another one for about a year and a half. In the first district, I really loved the kids, but there was a lot of issues, like deep rooted issues. I know sometimes you talk about administration and stuff. A lot of the administration was pretty good. It was like the superintendent way up there, like the school committee, things like that, that I just felt like how or when could I ever change or improve this? So, I felt kind of defeated.
When I went to the second district, those issues were gone, in the sense of the administration was really great, like the principal’s exceptional, super hard working. He had to work 100 hours a week. I don’t know how he did it. Really great guy, but I saw some issues that I saw in the first district that then those issues felt even more deep rooted, and they felt even broader.
So, if I wanted to answer this question quickly, my answer to people who don’t aren’t familiar with teaching or don’t understand why would people leave teaching. “You have summers off? You work 30 hours a week?” And all this stuff. Just people who don’t understand that, my simplest answer is between those two districts, one thing I saw in common— and one thing I’ve seen on a lot of Instagrams. Not just yours, but a lot of different teacher accounts— is that I feel like teachers are expected to do so much and work so hard and lately, students are expected to do almost nothing. So, when I’m like working my butt off every single day and I’m differentiating and I’m getting to know the kids and I’m calling parents, going to soccer games, and doing all these things, a kid who sleeps in my class all quarter can come up to me and ask for the work for the whole quarter and I’m expected to give it to them and pass them if they do it. That was my experience in the two schools I was in, so that was the real root that once I saw that at multiple schools, I just was so frustrated and tired, and I didn’t love my work anymore. I wanted to love my work again.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I definitely had a similar experience and one of my schools where I felt like— and the principal at my first school was a great person— but there was such a pressure to keep any sort of like discipline issues at a lower number than was accurate to the point of putting teachers and students at risk sometimes by saying, “Oh, nothing ever happened” or there not being any real consequences for things. There’s a lot of frustration when it comes to that. It’s not an easy answer because, for me, that was the school district where I felt a lot of frustration, but I also felt like my heart was there a lot more than the next school district that I went to with a totally different demographic. So, it’s a challenging situation to be put in as a teacher just to want to make a change and then realize that you were so frustrated by something that doesn’t have an easy answer.
When you started to think about leaving teaching, what were some of the biggest concerns that you had personally?
DELANEY CARR: Do you want to know a true story? I was looking at your Instagram about a year before I actually left teaching and it seriously was just so helpful. It was like therapeutic for me to see all your resources and stuff. My now fiance was on the couch and saw and he was like, “oh, what are you looking at?” I just started crying because I was so overwhelmed with the decision. It just… it really took me a long time.
So, I guess anyone who’s listening to this who’s struggling with the decision, it’s such a personal decision. Just like you, Daphne, I’m not saying it’s the right answer for you, the listener, but it was a really a long journey for me from that moment. I probably didn’t start applying for roles for about six months, but I just kept considering— so you asked me when I was considering— my happiness level, if I would be happier in another role. I did have the concern that I know a lot of people have. What if I just hate work? What if I leave and I hate the next job, what will I do? My pension and things like that. The summers off didn’t ever really… I loved my summers off, I’m not gonna lie, but they never were like a big factor for me. Still to this day, this is the first summer that I’m working full time, and I don’t mind at all because I’m like, I would rather work all year in a job that I love, than work 181 days and hate and count down to the 181st day. I just didn’t want that experience anymore. So, my happiness definitely ended up being the most important and I’m just trying to think of anything else that… any other factors.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: No, that’s great. Even when you said that you just started crying, it’s such a relatable experience because we’re so overwhelmed and it’s such a scary thing to tell people. I remember going back home during Christmas time. It was December and everyone said, “Oh, so you moved. You’re so happy you moved. How’s your new district? How’s your new job?” And I just started crying at a bar to a friend and just said, “I’m so unhappy with teaching. I’m so stressed out. I really dislike my administration. I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” It was from December to May of that year that every day was, you know— probably actually even like November or October of that year to May— every single day, I thought, “Am I brave enough to do something else?” or “What the heck would it be?”
How did you start to decide on a specific path that you were interested in pursuing outside of the classroom?
DELANEY CARR: Yeah, that’s a great question. When I was teaching…. So also, I loved teaching the first few years. I was someone who definitely never thought ever thought I would leave teaching and in the middle of the school year? No way.
I did end up leaving during the school year during COVID last October 2020. When I was still in public schools, I always saw myself as a department head. So, I taught high school math and I taught in a large district, so the department head was like an admin role. I always thought that would be great. I’d work with curriculum, which I love. That’s my favorite part of my job and not discipline. That was my least favorite part of my job. I never wanted to be a Vice Principal or something like that.
When I started looking into different fields and I saw that I could do curriculum development all day, I was like, “Wait. I could develop curriculum all day, not to have these negative experiences I’ve had with students, not having this negative experience I’ve had with administration, and just really deep-rooted education issues, and be part of the change, and still be making a difference.” So that’s one of the hugest things that I love about my job now.
The Day-to-Day of a Learning Experience Designer
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit more about your actual new position. It’s a learning experience designer. What exactly is that? What does it do from, you know, day-to-day?
DELANEY CARR: I know. It’s so tough to explain and even going into it I knew that I didn’t know the full picture. So on day-to-day, I do develop some curriculum. My product is an online product, mostly software program— we do have some print materials, but I work mostly on the software side— and it’s a math program for historically underperforming students which was such a good fit for me because I worked in these high-risk districts. I worked with students who are underperforming. English language learners, special ed students, and those are two of our biggest users of our products.
So, I get to design problems for those students who I’m so familiar with working with. I’d say that’s probably about 15 to 20% of what I do and the rest is really somewhat editorial. So, I could be going through enhancements that we’ve just created or we already have and making sure everything’s working the way it’s supposed to. I work with UX designers and engineering on issues and resolving issues with them. I also work with them on the curriculum development side which is really cool. I do standards alignment. I do a lot of different things and it’s funny, my boss just pointed this out to me the other day. I work at a pretty large company, but my product is one of the smaller products. Still like a widely used product, but it’s smaller. I think that allows me to wear a lot more hats and feel a little bit more like I’m in a smaller company. I get to do all these different things, but most of them really are related to my teaching experience and related to things I saw in the classroom. It’s awesome to be able to apply that experience but in such a different way.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: So I heard you say that you felt totally prepared for this position. Or not totally prepared, but it relates well. You can see your transferable skills now that you’re in it. How do you feel like you actually got this position? What steps did you have to take?
DELANEY CARR: Another great question. I bought your course. That was the biggest step and I promise, everyone, I wasn’t bribed to say that anything, but really your course made a huge difference. Specifically, the resume and cover letter help and also the networking help. Just how much you emphasize in the course how important it is.
I did reach out to just random people I haven’t talked to since high school, but I saw they worked at an EdTech company or did something in curriculum or anything close to what I want to do. It was actually a friend of mine who was one of your very first posts for teachers who left the classroom. I don’t want to say her name just in case, but she was like one of your very, very first ones way back in your Instagram. She had left the company I’m at now and they were hiring a role that was… I’m on a different product than she was but work with very similar people. So, she recommended me for the position, or referred me, and even though she had left the company she had left on really good terms. They all spoke and still speak so highly of her. So yeah, the networking made all the difference. I do want to mention, I had applied to 40 or 50 roles. I had phone interviews. Sometimes I was ghosted, like didn’t even hear that I did or didn’t move on. I was taking every interview I could get just to get experience and practice, but it ended up being networking that landed me my role.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: For anybody listening right now where that first part hit them in the feelers, that’s normal. That happens to basically everybody. If you can, check out your resume, make sure your resume is optimized. If you can, focus on what skill sets you might need to add. Start practicing your interviewing questions, but you can be honestly doing everything right and still be getting ghosted for 50 different positions, especially if you’re only applying to positions between the end of March and July. You’re up against every other teacher whose resume looks very similar, but then when it comes to October or September, many of these job postings don’t have the same amount of resumes that look similar applying for these positions.
I love that you said that you use my course, clearly, but for this specific role did you have to add any new skills by taking even LinkedIn courses or do you feel like the networking really got you in without having to go above and beyond for this one?
DELANEY CARR: No, I don’t think I added any new skills, but the way you were did things was so helpful and it just helped me to rephrase bullet points from my previous jobs and rephrase my cover letter. Even like the description at the top of my resume, I really went off of that and it was so helpful. I feel like it looks so professional and it really made me feel like I am already in this field. I’m just in the public side of it and I’m working with students, but I’m already in the education field. My experience is so valid and so relevant, and I think that’s what really helped me to revamp those those items.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: With this specific role, learning experience designer, do you have a lot of technology that you need to learn for it? Are you working with engineers or coding? Is that on your plate or do you have a team that helps you with it?
DELANEY CARR: So much technology, so much coding. Not so much coding, that’s exaggerating, but I do have a little bit of a coding background because I was a statistic major. That was a while ago, I’m not saying I could write code right now, but it helps me because my program is mostly a software program. It does help me to do some parts of my job which is really nice. I know I’ve seen that in other job descriptions. It’ll say, you know, “Nice to have some experience” or just a little understanding of coding I think is really useful in a lot of these positions. Then just a lot of systems in general. I work mostly on the software side, but recently, I’ve needed to become proficient in a system I’ve never used and we have a deadline coming up. It’s like really important that I understand and grasp what’s going on in this new system, so being a fast learner, just like most teachers are, and just being able to pick up things as quickly as you can when things are getting stressful, that’s really been helpful.
That’s definitely something I got from the classroom is that I can learn things quickly. I know how to ask the right questions and I know how to reach out for help and things like that and collaborate. So, yes, definitely use a lot of technology in my role, but it’s been awesome. I love learning. That’s the thing, too. Most teachers love to learn. So, in this new role, whether you want to go into curriculum design or something else, you’re going to have this opportunity to learn and you learn so much. That’s kind of how I looked at it was learning these different systems and coding or whatever it may be, which has been really cool.
Taking a Risk Can Lead to So Much More
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Even at your specific role, there’s tons to learn right where you are, but are you able to see clear paths of like career trajectories if you wanted to even grow and take on new responsibilities from that position?
DELANEY CARR: Yeah. So, I’ve been with my company for about 10 months and just starting to notice what positions people are in and how they got there. So, someone that used to be in my role is now a director of marketing which is so different, but he’s on the math side which is so cool. He works in marketing for the math products in my division, I believe. That’s super cool.
Then, the woman who’s my boss now came from a completely different section of the company, the services department, but also worked with our product. So, her experience is awesome and now really useful for our side of the product. It’s so different than teaching than thinking of just going up.
I might not ever get my boss’s job or my boss’s boss’s job, but I could shift in so many directions. I currently work in product development and I just love product development. I think it’s really cool and I think there’s so many opportunities in EdTech and outside of EdTech, of course. So that makes me just feel… I really feel like the opportunities are endless and that that’s the biggest reason that I wouldn’t go back to the classroom, I would say. I just feel like there’s so much out there and so many opportunities, at my company and elsewhere, and who knows where the road will go, but I just feel free and I feel like there’s so much so much I could do which is awesome.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: When you take a risk like that, and you leave one job for another job, there’s no guarantees. A lot of people who are coming from like that severe burnout, I always say like, weigh the pros and cons figure out what is doable and it’s worth trying.
If you are rock bottom miserable, most likely, the next thing will be somewhat of a mood enhancer and at least help you. At least you’ll know that you tried, but just getting your foot in the door is so huge. Maybe weren’t completely meshing with that very first role and total transparency for everyone listening, there are Teacher Career Coach course members who are in the course and said, “You’re right. I took the first job and I ended up, I’m not 100% happy. I’m a lot happier than I was before and now I’m able to continue to look for new roles.” Or there’s been Teacher Career Coach course members who have, already within a year, gotten new promotions within their work education companies. So, it’s so neat to see all these different departments.
I was in the same boat where once I had like exposure to that new world, I could do…. I like marketing, maybe I like sales? Shoot, I don’t know. There’s all these different directions that you can go and so you’re never really feeling stagnant. You can always continue to grow and learn. I feel like that’s something that a lot of people who are like forever learners are missing from their current experiences. There’s not a lot of opportunities to try new things. They don’t have the autonomy to do so. Then there’s, you know, they’re too burnt out to do things on the side.
What do you feel like your work life balances and this new position?
DELANEY CARR: Amazing. That’s probably maybe tied for first for a reason I wouldn’t go back to teaching and I was pretty good. I made a lot of use of my prep, I was super productive at work, I got there early, you know, I worked at home sometimes I worked on the weekend sometimes, but it was, for me, I guess it was more the emotional strain than anything else. I just felt exhausted every day and I would think about if I wanted to have kids someday, how would I do it? How would I be at school all day and be so stressed out and overwhelmed and go home to little kids that are crazy, and not have time and energy? I’m thinking way down the road, but it’s valid.
Even for things currently in my life, like my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my fiance, and my friends, my family, I felt too exhausted to do anything. I felt like sometimes I was taking out my bad energy from work on other people. Now it’s just, I work from home. We might go back to the office, but my company seems extremely flexible. So I don’t even think I would have to go back.
Being home is so flexible and so awesome. I just love the freedom that I have. Technically, I work nine to five, but realistically, I can kind of do whatever as long as I’m on my meetings and getting my work done. It’s just so much different than teaching. It’s like, if you’re getting your job done, you’re trusted to do that. Other than that, the flexibility is just great. Yeah.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Even that remote change is something that I think I know it all and I absolutely don’t. When COVID head, my first gut reaction was so many teachers are going to keep this secure position because they’re working remotely. It’s a, you know, stable job while the economy’s going wild on the end. Everybody’s gonna call them a saint. Everybody’s finally gonna get to see what this remote life is like because my job since I left the classroom for the last four-ish years, for the most part, I’m remote. I travel some for work. Then when I was an instructional designer, I was actually an office but for the most part remote. So, I love the remote life. Teachers, you know, COVID hit and I was like, “Oh, I think teachers are gonna really like this experience” was my first thought.
Then within weeks, I was like, “Oh, no! Schools and districts aren’t handling this well. There’s 10 times more work.” I wasn’t sure if it would leave a really bad taste in everybody’s mouth on if they left the classroom if they wouldn’t be open to remote work or like knowing that they would like remote work at companies that are doing it and giving autonomy and it’s not as much and not every company is.
Did you feel like you were ready for remote work or were you hesitant?
DELANEY CARR: Yes, I definitely felt ready. That was one of my signs when we went remote for school, a lot of the teachers like we’re like, “Oh, I missed the kids, I missed being in school.” and I was like, “You do?” I just didn’t. I was so happy and nothing against where I was, but I just loved being home. I think I knew that in a different role, it would be different. I think I at that point had realized— so this was about now six months, probably, after my little mental breakdown about what am I going to do?
I think at that point, I had realized a different role in a different industry would just look so, so different than what I was experiencing. That’s actually really when I started seriously applying. That was about probably April of 2020. I applied all summer. Just to go back, you were speaking on applying in the summer versus during the school year. I started in April, of course, with the intention of getting a job and being out before the school year started. I had my phone interview for my current role in early August and we go back in late August. The hiring process takes time. So, I didn’t get my offer until like early or mid-October.
I still hesitated. I did, I still hesitated and my friend who had recommended me for it, I talked to her about it and she was like, “It’s a great opportunity.” And I knew it was. I’m so glad that I did it. I had a really good experience with leaving my district. People were super understanding. I know a lot of times people will ask you, Daphne, about unions and what that looks like. I know it’s so different state-to-state and district-to-district, but I talked to my union president and at first, he was like upset with me because we also were friendly, but I was like “You should be happy for me, I have this opportunity.” I think he ended up being happy for me, but he basically said like, we can’t keep you here. He said in my district the contract that we signed is to guarantee my job for a year, but I’m not promising to stay legally.
So, I gave three weeks’ notice because I felt like two wasn’t enough. I had an exit interview with the principal and he was honestly also so understanding. At the end of the day, I knew that a few weeks of discomfort and hard conversations was going to be worth my overall increased happiness in the long run. It really was so worth it.
It’s Okay to Get Help During Tough Times
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: You have such, like, great understanding of this entire process. Just listening to you talk about that from a perspective of I have to do this thing that’s hard for three weeks. You are really in tuned emotionally. I’m gonna ask, and feel free to tell me if this is uncomfortable, were are you seeing a therapist during these times?
DELANEY CARR: It’s 100%. I wasn’t gonna take all the credit. I was gonna say “Yep! I 100% was seeing a therapist.” I can’t believe you knew that.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I’m seeing therapists all the time. So, I can pick up when someone’s been doing a lot of work on themselves.
DELANEY CARR: Yeah, that was her advice. I took it and I am so with you. Therapy is so important and I’m totally happy to share that. Yeah, yeah, it was my therapist who gave me that advice.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I was just listening and I was like, that sounds like something that I would say now, but only after somebody forced me to make that realization about myself or about my situation because it’s not your natural instinct. Your instinct is to stay in a crappy situation that makes you uncomfortable and sad because the other thing is also hard. When you’re sad, looking at a hard thing feels impossible. Overcoming that obstacle definitely takes a lot of amping yourself up to believe that something better is out there and that is hard to do if you feel like poopoo.
DELANEY CARR: Right? Absolutely.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: It sounds like your fiancé now is also very supportive of your decision. Was he on board for the whole thing?
DELANEY CARR: He was for the most part. He pushed back a little bit in the beginning and not in a negative way and some of my friends did, too. As you know, should you try one more district? I had been my two districts were different, but they were large urban districts. There was over 2000 students, lots of ELL and special ed students, but that’s what I always wanted in education. I didn’t really want a different experience. There’s nothing against people who work… there’s so many different types of schools and if you can find the type of school that’s great for you, then that’s awesome, but I think I also at that point was just so jaded. I didn’t feel like going to a school with a different demographic or a smaller school or charter or private. I just felt so jaded and that things weren’t going to get better and that I just needed like a real a real change.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I wasn’t the type of person who was salty at professional development. I wasn’t pushing back against the administration or anything like that, but I do feel like when people say, “those toxic people in your work environments,” my unhappiness level, I think, put me in that category.
I feel like you were saying that you were just unhappy all the time. You didn’t get excited to go back to see the students and it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between those people who say, “Oh, I love my summer break” and the people who weep during their summer break and are filled with real anxiety or other types of emotions about the idea of going back to that work environment. People are always like, “Oh, you can’t just keep talking about everybody leaving.” Not everybody’s gonna leave. If they’ve made it to the very end of this podcast and they weren’t like, “Oh, those are two toxic women,” they’re probably in the same boat of like they need to start exploring whether or not it’s normal that they felt the way that they felt for as long as they have.
DELANEY CARR: And one thing just to add on a little bit to that with the vacations that…. So, I would I loved my summers off, but I also felt, like you said, I feel like I was dreading going back the whole time. That was true with the long weekends and the weeklong vacations, everything. I’m not kidding, if I take a four-day weekend now, you know, I take Friday and Monday just take a long weekend, I feel so much more rejuvenated than I ever did with a week off from teaching. I take a four-day weekend and I come back and I’m ready to go. I’m excited to get back to work. It’s just a completely different experience.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I was thinking about this, and I’ve never actually said it out loud, but I was thinking about this the other day. Think of it like five of you and your female friends all go to the beach and you rented a beach house and everyone’s like, “Oh, it’s so good to be away from my husband,” and then one person’s like, “I never want to go home” and is like bawling. That’s such a warning sign of something severely wrong you guys. It’s not normal. It’s normal to be like, I like space away from this situation.
Everybody likes vacations, but there’s all these memes, teacher memes, like “We all hate back to school!” Do you all? Are you all balling on that beach trip about ever having to return home? And if so, like, we need to explore that emotion.
DELANEY CARR: We need to talk about that.
You Can Learn A Lot About Yourself While Going Through Change
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: You would not let someone act like that. I felt the same way. I felt like I must hate work. I must be bad at it. Then I remembered, I’ve had jobs before my teaching job and I was fine with them. I never felt this way before and just something about it didn’t click. It was maybe too much for me, but you can continue to keep impacting people in other ways.
I’m so excited about you and everything that you have done to better your life. What do you feel like overall, throughout this entire process, was like the biggest thing that you learned about yourself?
DELANEY CARR: That’s a tough question. I wasn’t prepared for that one. I feel like sort of what you said, you know, like a renewed sense of confidence, a ren ewed sense of I can do this and I can be succes sful. Like I said, before, just so many opportunities. I even listen to your podcast— the woman who became a software engineer— and like I said, I have a coding background. So, I did look into boot camps.
Once I left one career, and I love my job now and I love my company, but I feel like I could do that if I wanted. I could be a UX designer if I wanted. I could be a project manager. There’s so many roles out there and if you just step into one, you just see so many opportunities. I guess that’s the biggest thing that I gained was confidence and my overall happiness and self-worth is just so much better. I’ve always been a confident person, but teaching will… it will drag you down if you let it. I hope that’s not the experience of everyone, but it towards the end definitely was for me.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Delaney, I am so happy for you. I don’t know if you can tell I’m tearing up a little bit. I just love to hear that because it’s the experience many people have. After you’ve done it once, you rip the band aid off and you did something big and scary and you can do big and scary things in the future. I can’t wait to keep in touch and continue to see what you do with this because you know, you’ve got a really bright future ahead of you and I’m so stoked for you.
DELANEY CARR: Awesome. Thank you so much, Daphne, this was so fun and I really loved being on with you.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Thank you.
I want to give a huge thank you to Delaney for coming on and sharing her story with this audience. If you have been a fan of the Teacher Career Coach podcast, make sure you connect with me on other platforms as well. My username is Teacher Career Coach on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter. I’d love to connect with you there. Thanks again for being part of this community and we’ll see you on the very next episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast.
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