Two Long Shot Interviews That Paid Off by
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Prompted By Interviews

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Would you have hired this girl to teach high school English?

Interview #1: Summer of 1967

Thinking back as Retrospect asks me to do, I had only two job interviews in a 25-year career in education.

Having just moved to Chicago, I was totally unfamiliar with how things worked and a bit naïve. Teaching certificate in hand for grades 7-12, I called the Chicago Board of Education and asked about applying to teach in a school close to where I lived, as I had no car. The person I talked with laughed and gave me a reality check. If I were hired, they would place me in a school in any neighborhood. Yikes. I had no idea that could happen. So, I applied for jobs in the suburbs and was called in for an interview at Niles East High School in Skokie. This was the same high school from which my husband had gradated and which his younger sisters still attended. Awkward, but I was young and hopeful.

I met with John Golata, the head of the English Department, in a classroom at the school. Looking back, it was the summer before school was to start, and he probably had to hire a teacher ASAP. Most likely, a teacher had resigned at the last minute. Still, I have no idea why he chose me, a fresh-out-of-college and totally inexperienced young woman. Yes, my grades were impressive and I was eager and available, but I was minimally qualified to teach students not much older than I was. As I recall, our interview was not very long and I was shocked to receive a job offer.

Interview #2: Spring of 1985

Just before turning 40, I was persuaded by the director of the nursery school in which I had been teaching for three years to interview for her job “just for the experience.” I was part way through an evening Master’s Degree program in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy and, in my opinion, unqualified to direct a preschool. But since it was to be a learning experience for the future, why not?

Life begins at 40?

I was interviewed by a panel of church members in which the nursery school was housed. One of them was the man who became the vet for all of our future pets. I guess animals and kids were similar enough. I don’t recall any of them having expertise in early childhood education. When they offered me the job, I was both flattered and in shock. Of course, since life begins at 40, I accepted. Only later did I suspect that they didn’t have many applicants for what ended up being a low paying, part time/full time job.

At the church school just before the exile

Like the biblical Jacob, I toiled there for seven years waiting for my Rachel. She came in the form of having the opportunity to start my own school, a story I shared in Betrayed by a Church. Other versions of the Cherry Preschool origin story appear in Taking the Road Less Traveled: The Founding of Cherry Preschool and What Do You Believe In? Ask the Little Preschool That Could. There was no interview for that job — only lots of commitment and toil.

One of my executive duties at Cherry Preschool

Thinking back as Retrospect asks me to do, I had only two job interviews in a 25-year career in education. What they had in common was that, in both cases, I was very nervous because I knew I not qualified for the job. And in both cases, I was likely the only candidate at a time when the school was desperate to hire someone… anyone. Both jobs ended up being enormous growth opportunities for me. As I gained confidence and experience, I was hopefully able to give back to others, which is a pretty good argument for taking a chance on someone with no experience but lots of enthusiasm and commitment.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    It seems you have been fortunate in both your interviews, Laurie. They both led to job offers and moved you along in your career, regardless of your age. You’ve always done well and achieved wonderful things in your life. Sounds like success to me.

  2. Marian says:

    As you say, Laurie, sometimes desperation can help someone with little experience but a lot of enthusiasm. I, too, was the low bidder on several of the jobs I got, which couldn’t have hurt, except in my pocketbook.

  3. Suzy says:

    In answer to the question under your featured image: Yes, absolutely! You look alert and intelligent and ready to teach! Amazing that these were the only two interviews you ever had in your career, that you got both jobs, and that you did them wonderfully. That’s quite a success story!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I thought I looked about 12 in that picture. What my interviews had in common was that, while I was unaware of it at the time, they really needed to hire someone quickly. That probably opened the door for an inexperienced person like me.

  4. Laurie, in my book enthusiasm and commitment count as much or more than experience! All those kids were damn lucky to have you!

  5. The arenas in which you interviewed (schools and preschools) are ones that are very familiar to me. You are right that, in so many circumstances, given the lack of resources in those areas of our society, these decisions are made with few applicants and little time to wait for the right candidate. I’m glad you turned out to be right for each position, even though you were about it for the applicant pool! i got one of those jobs just for being a white male–because they needed one to balance off the staff that was nearly all African-American and female. I said, “I hope you’re considering my other qualities and talents?” But they really weren’t.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Laurie, and you are too modest. Two for two in job interviews and then you retire undefeated? Those are Hall of Fame statistics! They may have been in a hurry to hire, but what I am sure was that they also had the good sense to see exactly how well you could do the job you were interviewed for, not just what you had done previously. And, of course, they got it exactly right both times. I think they were the lucky ones!

  7. At this stage of life, I enjoy looking at where we started on our paths, how they opened before us, and where they led us. It all just feels so…I don’t know, right. Precisely because of all we learn on the way. Most of us wouldn’t change a thing, even the difficulties of not making enough money, or working too many hours. Your story is a perfect example, and my bet is you wouldn’t change a thing either. Brava for all your very good work, Laurie!

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