IBM Transition to Teaching program partners with WCU

The IBM Transition to Teaching program designed to help high-performing IBM employees go to the head of the class – as middle school and high school teachers – is joining forces with Western Carolina University.

Through the Transition to Teaching program launched last year, the corporation financially supports veteran IBM employees interested in a second career in education as they take preparatory courses at partnering colleges and universities.

Some Transition to Teaching candidates want to live, work and ultimately retire in Western North Carolina, and Rick Falknor, IBM corporate community relations manager, said that was part of what compelled IBM to approach Western about forming a partnership.

“Western’s programs match the needs of our employees who are interested in becoming teachers through the Transition to Teaching program,” said Falknor. Through its NC TEACH program, WCU offers courses online or face-to-face and provides access to extensive mentoring and support services for beginning teachers.

IBM reimburses Transition to Teaching participants for tuition, pays them stipends while they student-teach and arranges additional support services. The program not only aims to help IBM employees who want to teach follow their dreams, but also to help address the nationwide shortage of mathematics and science teachers.

“The intention is to really provide school districts and classrooms with valuable teachers,” said Falknor. “The same traits that make them valuable to IBM are the same traits that will make them valuable to the classroom. Many are engineers. Quite a few have MBA degrees and strong financial backgrounds.”

Western’s NC TEACH program, which stands for Teachers of Excellence for All Children, is designed to help mid-career professionals who have a bachelor’s degree pursue a teaching license and successfully enter the classroom. Janice Holt, director of WCU’s NC TEACH and Center for the Support of Beginning Teachers, said the online aspect of the program particularly appeals to people who cannot afford to give up their job as they prepare to become teachers or who have not yet relocated to Western North Carolina. Some NC TEACH participants have moved to the area from as far away as California and New York, and Holt said she has a great admiration for them and all of the program’s students.

“There’s a misconception that it is very easy to start a second career as a teacher, but there are sacrifices and they are not just financial,” said Holt. “The people who do this have a real commitment to students, to children and the profession.”

Michael Dougherty, dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions, said the IBM Transition to Teaching program is a wonderful way to help meet the needs of the state in shortage areas such as science and math.

“The challenges that exist for meeting the demand for math and science in our state and across the nation revolve around the idea that fewer people are majoring in math and science in the first place,” said Dougherty. “Plus, the jobs available at corporations for majors in math and science will attract them because of the salary differential between working in business and industry and working in education. One of the nice things about IBM’s program is if it helps address that challenge by sending employees after a sustained period back into the teaching force. They not only have the content expertise, but also they have experience as mid-career professionals, which can be a large asset in working in the public schools.”

For more information, contact Janice Holt at (828) 227-3310 and check out or Rick Falknor at IBM at (704) 594-5464.