Many people begin to think about giving back to the places where they got their start—but usually it’s at the end of a long and successful career. Charele Schork and Caitlin Buerger went back to their roots after less than ten years when they began teaching Health Technology at Scarlet Oaks Career Campus.
Schork (2009) and Buerger (2008) were among the first graduates from the Scarlet Oaks Secondary Practical Nursing program—one of just four Ohio programs that prepares high school students for the Licensed Practical Nurse exam.
After high school, both continued their education—Schork at Xavier, becoming an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing; and Buerger at Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences. They began working, and both enjoyed nursing, but each thought about how to help prepare others for health care careers. One day this January, Schork saw a Facebook post from a former teacher about an opening at Scarlet Oaks, and within a few weeks she was in a high school classroom. “I’ve always been interested in education, and I thought about going back to school but wasn’t sure about the direction. Then I saw the Facebook post and knew that it was a sign.”
Coincidentally, Buerger had seen a similar Facebook post a few months before and had begun teaching at Scarlet Oaks at the start of the school year.
They aren’t the first—or only—Great Oaks graduates to come back as instructors. But their connection as instructors in the same program is ironic; Schork and Buerger were both profiled for Nurses Week 2011 in a local newspaper article about up-and-coming nurses.
Going back into the classroom seemed like a logical step for them. “Essentially, a nurse is a teacher,” said Caitlin Buerger. “We go through a rigorous education ourselves, and then we educate patients every day. We’re the ones who, when the doctor leaves the room, work with patients to understand their diagnosis and treatment.”
There were differences, of course. Buerger, who worked in a neonatal intensive care unit, and Schork, a veteran of hospice services, were surprised at the emotional investment that teaching requires. “Each student comes from a different background, with differing experiences and home lives,” said Buerger. “We must be a strong form of support for the kids.” But they see the rewards. “They grow and mature,” said Schork. “When they come back to us as seniors, we know they’ll be professional and ready for the world.”
They expect to see many senior classes in the coming years. “We are young, and we’re here for the long term,” said Schork.
For both, there’s a logical goal. As Schork said, “We’re teaching them to be the kind of caregivers that we want to be caring for us and our families.”