Why I Chose Teaching as a New Career: Caroline Freibauer
Several themes have run through the multiple pivots in Caroline Freibauer’s career choices as she reflects on them.
“For me, it’s all about continuous learning, really, ” says the Head Librarian at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), a position she has held since September 2020. “At some point, you’ve maxed out either that situation or that career and it is time to look for something new.”
After graduating from Carleton University with a Journalism degree, Freibauer has worked in the following roles:
- Inuit journalism training program
- Newspaper reporter (Brantford Expositor and Southam News)
- Independent bookstore manager
- Educational software sales
- Freelance writer
- English teacher (high school)
“I was always looking for new things to learn, new challenges,” says Freibauer of the twists and turns in her career path. “I needed another experience.”
Caroline Freibauer’s original career path included working as a print reporter.
Each time the learning in a particular role waned or changes impacted an industry or her family grew — she is married with two adult children — Freibauer considered her career options. Journalism and teaching were always the common denominator.
“I knew that I probably would want to change at some point,” she says. “I knew that teaching was there for me. Even in high school, I was the kid that the science teacher got to teach the other kids how to dissect worms. So, teaching was always knocking at my door. It was kind of a no-brainer.”
At the age of 40, with some initial trepidation from her husband, Freibauer decided to enter teacher’s college. Upon graduation, she began her career as an English teacher.
“Every set of students is a whole new set of learning and I love developing a relationship with them, where we are learning from each other,” she says.
“Probably the biggest adjustment was going from journalism to teaching. Because I was older, I knew what doing a good job looked like. At the same time, I was a beginner in this field. So, I worked long hours every day to develop relevant and engaging lessons while mastering classroom behaviour and navigating bureaucracy,” she adds. “Teaching is a lot like writing. Everyone thinks they can write; everyone thinks they can teach. But they’re both very complex skills that you can work on for the rest of your life, if you care about them.”
Freibauer leaned on critical transferrable skills to ease the career transition.
“The journalism, all the writing, all that practical experience of writing and editing and reading — all of that really informed my teaching as an English teacher in the classroom,” she says. “And I think that a lot of other English teachers were really stuck because they’d gone from school to school to school, and didn’t really have a practical understanding of really how to write, and how to communicate.”
While teaching, Freibauer came upon a graphic that piqued her interest, paving the way for her next move.
Caroline Freibauer pictured with her colleagues, in a previous role, on STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) and Innovation Day at Assumption College School.
“My interest in the whole student and then the whole school, that’s what kind of drove my interest in the school library,” she says. “The school library, it can be the real hub of the school and the teacher-librarian can be the person who can support all things. And, I thought — that’s for me. This is now my ninth year as teacher-librarian.”
Caroline Freibauer’s Learnings, Tips, and Strategies:
“If you don’t know what you want to do, figure out what you like to study. If you’re a math-science person, then find a university you like, a campus where you feel comfortable and study math and science. Study what you enjoy.
Your first degree is really only going to be your base coat. And while you’re there, figure out what interests you, what you would like to try. And then your next degree, your post-grad degree is going to be the one that’s going to narrow the focus into your career.
In general, and with exceptions, I do think that people who are willing to take risks to engage in multiple careers, end up being better teachers, because the more life experience you have, the more you can bring to the classroom. I just see it all the time.”
This story is part of an ongoing series on the career journeys of St. Michael’s College School staff.
Grade 11 Career Day at St. Michael’s College School takes place on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.