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Life Arts

From Teacher to Handyman: Forging A New Career Path

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with tools of his new trade by Rena Newman

My guest today is Dave Newman.  Welcome to OpEdNews, Dave.  You recently underwent a career transition. Can you tell our readers a bit about that?

DN: After teaching in the Chicago Public Schools for 26 years, the winds of change blew hard in the form of a know-it-all, my-way-or-the-highway, micromanaging principal.  In my search for a change, I Iearned that school districts are not hiring veteran teachers - even male teachers with early childhood experience.   The only response I received from all the applications and resumes sent was an invitation to substitute teach for the Chicago Jewish Day School.

JB: That must have been disheartening. So. what did you do?

DN: I did sub a bunch of times the following school year to see how much I actually missed teaching.  But that summer, as a favor for a friend, I agreed to construct new storage lockers in the basement of her six-unit condo building.   I enjoyed the project so much that I thought I could make a go of doing handyman work or trying to find more condos that needed their storage lockers rebuilt.   

JB: How did it go, finding more work?

DN: From posting on Craigslist and pull-tab fliers, and referrals from friends, I was getting more and more work.

Room 111, 2009 by Maricela Rivera

JB: Enough to make a living?

DN: Well, fortunately I was able to begin collecting my pension.  Although reduced due to my "early" retirement, I really only needed to make up half of my former teacher's salary to be at the same income.  I have achieved that goal and a bit more too.

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JB: Good for you!  Was it scary making that leap?

DN: I suppose it would have been a bit more scary if my wife wasn't working and we had lost health insurance.  But fortunately that was not a concern.  And, of course, being eligible to collect my pension was big.  My wife was very supportive.  I'm really not a business type and I had to learn a bit about having my own business.  I'm still learning.

JB: I bet.  How did you have the confidence to put yourself out there as a handyman?  What experience had you had?

DN: As a homeowner of 20+ years and former auto mechanic as well as a tool freak/gearhead,  I knew I was capable of fixing and building lots of things.  I had done a bit of remodeling and am comfortable with electrical and plumbing.

JB: Is hanging out at a hardware store your idea of a good time?

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DN: Among other things, yeah.

JB: What kinds of tasks have you been hired for since you began this new career of yours, Dave?

DN: I've done some furniture repair, fixed lots of toilets and installed many faucets and light fixtures as well as shelving.  I also do bicycle repair.  I forgot to mention that I worked at a bike store throughout my teen years.  I've also done woodworking projects with a couple of teenage boys.  I helped design and build a solid oak nightstand and am currently working on a chess table with one student.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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It's refreshing to feel his entrepreneurial spirit... by Meryl Ann Butler on Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013 at 12:02:49 AM
He's so lucky. He has so many things going on for ... by Joan Brunwasser on Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013 at 6:20:00 AM
career/life destruction! And to casually note that... by Ad Du on Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013 at 10:09:04 AM
I am also a handyman in Houston. Its been a proud ... by Mighty Does on Monday, Sep 9, 2013 at 12:29:04 AM
In these difficult times, with what's going on wit... by Joan Brunwasser on Monday, Sep 9, 2013 at 6:26:41 AM