Kari Knisely: Helping Teachers Transition Away from the Classroom with Confidence

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that over 270,000 teachers will leave their positions across the United States each year from 2016–2026. While a large portion is due to retirement or the decision to stay home with children, over half of them are leaving for new careers. Citing obstacles such as excessive bureaucracy, the high stress, and lack of resources, teachers are finding more attractive work environments and pay in other fields.

Keri Knisely spent five years as a middle school teacher in Texas and Florida. While she initially enjoyed many aspects of work, she eventually found that it wasn’t the right career path for her. “I remember getting anxiety attacks before going into class and I was miserable,” Knisely shared. “I wasn’t enjoying it and decided that it wasn’t for me anymore.”

Although she had made the decision to leave teaching, Knisely didn’t have a clear plan afterward. “I had completed my Masters Degree in Educational Technology the year prior and had learned about instructional design but didn’t think I could jump into it right after teaching,” says Knisely. “I thought I would have to get experience in the industry first, but I was prepared to be a restaurant server in the meantime if that was what I had to do.”

Knisely recalled one of her professors telling her class to join a professional association. She took his advice and joined the Association for Talent Development. As a member of ATD, Knisely learned more about the instructional design industry, increased her confidence, and learned to transfer her teaching skills into a new career. Knisely says, “It was the best professional decision I think I ever made.”

With her newfound skills and confidence, Knisely successfully landed a job as an instructional designer and was quickly promoted to a program manager position. Soon after, she decided to go out on her own. Knisely says, “I thought that I didn’t want to be an employee any more.”

Knisely started her consulting firm Instructional Design Studio LLC, where she helps identify gaps in understanding and knowledge within a company or organization and develops training systems to close that gap.

Knisely expected her business to make a little less than her salary as an employee, but found that wasn’t the case. “I doubled that easily,” Knisely shares. “And then the next year I went way above that. It’s crazy when I think back on it.”

According to ATD, the talent development profession is growing 10% year over year and might be a natural next step for teachers. They share, “The average talent development professional makes between $80,000 and $89,000. And teachers are skilled in many of the same areas in which trainers, talent development managers, and instructional designers are skilled.”

Along her journey from the classroom to consultant, Knisely discovered a passion for helping other teachers switch career paths as she did. She has partnered with ATD as a key resource to help teachers that are seeking new careers in the talend development industry. In addition to co-authoring an upcoming book published by ATD on instructional design, Knisely also hosts informational webinars to help teachers explore their options in the instructional design industry.

“My mission is to help teachers build their confidence in making their transition into a new career,” says Knisely. “I want them to know that they have the skills and I want to share the steps they need to get there.”

Knisely shares career resources as well as success stories of other former teachers on her website www.otherjobsforteachers.com.

Philipp Lomboy

Philipp Lomboy is a Los Angeles-based writer covering business, leadership, and innovation. He is also a podcast host and author of the bestselling books "The 5-Star Formula" and "Bodybuilders in Tutus and 35 Other Obscure Business-Boosting Observations". His work has been seen on BusinessWeek.com, USAToday.com, and CNN.com.