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Oprah's Next Career Move

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By now everybody on the planet must be aware that Oprah (no last name necessary) opened her OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) cable network on January 1, 2011. I am not sure if OWN is supposed to symbolize affirmation and spiritual uplift, that it is her "own" network, or capitalism, the mega-rich Oprah "owns" it all by herself and will become even richer. Probably it means both. The big draw for the new station should be the Oprah Winfrey Show which is scheduled to end a twenty-five year run on ABC television in September 2011 and then will probably be moving to the new cable network.

Forbes magazine estimates Oprah's wealth at $2.7 billion. She is the wealthiest African American in the United States and Forbes ranks her as the 130th richest American. You would think all of this success and money would make Oprah happy, but so far she has not realized her greatest dream. In November 2010, Oprah wrote a column "What I Know for Sure" for her Oprah magazine. What Oprah knows for sure is that "teaching is my true calling." This was her goal as a "barefoot girl in Mississippi" and teaching was what she tried to do on her show.

Oprah has always considered herself something of an expert on education, having attended a number of schools during a childhood where she was shuttled between family members in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

During a September 2010 show, Oprah announced six Oprah's Angel Network grants to U.S. charter schools and she heavily promoted the pro-charter propaganda movie Waiting for "Superman". She believes America's public schools are failing and charters have the potential to revolutionize them. Oprah told her audience, "I value nothing more in the world than education." Oprah has also funded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Unfortunately, up until now Oprah has been too busy to achieve her life-long dream. But she certainly has enough money already. Now would be a good time to make a career move. Oprah has a bachelor's degree from Tennessee State so she could either start a teacher education master's program or try to get certification through an alternative program such as Teach for America. Her main draw back is that she was a communications major so she will definitely need undergraduate liberal arts classes to satisfy deficiencies. If Oprah decides to go to school full time starting in February 2011, she would be ready to student teach after a year of school and be on the job market (if there is one) by Fall 2012.

Of course Oprah will have to make some adjustments. Her current income is about $200 million a year. The average public school teacher salary in Illinois is $57,000, but beginners make significantly less. It also means getting up by 6 a.m. to get to school on time, working with boisterous children or teenagers all day, racing home to prepare lessons for the next day, and getting to bed by 10 p.m. This is not an easy schedule, but Oprah has advised that if you are not a morning person you can retrain your brain by rising up early and starting with an invigorating morning routine. She also recommends setting up the coffee machine and ironing your clothes the night before.

Another option for Oprah is working in a charter school. They might not require certification at all, so she can get started right away. Of course charters often pay less than regular public schools and require teachers to work longer hours, but you don't have the problem of proving you know something before getting hired and you usually don't have to deal with unions. As a television producer and magazine publisher Oprah ran union free shops and evidently does not believe employees need union protection.

One of the charter schools Oprah supports is in her hometown of Chicago. The mission of LEARN Charter School is to "provide children with the academic foundation and ambition to earn a college degree. By 2019, we will operate 16 high-performing elementary schools with an enrollment capacity of 8,000 students. At scale, our network will annually produce 600 graduates who will matriculate to Chicago's most selective college preparatory high schools and eventually, college."

Job descriptions and salaries are not posted on the website, but "If you are ready to work with a great team of friendly professionals who are dedicated to transforming public education within a challenging team-based work environment," Oprah can submit her resume and salary requirements to However, if Oprah works at a LEARN Charter School she may have a problem getting enough sleep. The company brags that it has "longer school days, and each of our teachers receive cell phones; and students can call up to 10:30, 11 o'clock at night -- if they have questions about homework...or just need help and support."

Before making her decision, Oprah needs to think about the impact of teaching at a LEARN Charter School. LEARN, a nonprofit organization, has a bare-bones budget that does not include gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias or playgrounds. Meanwhile, Timothy Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute in Chicago, said the projected growth of LEARN and other charter school networks posed a threat to Chicago neighborhood schools because most district financing was allocated per-pupil. If charter schools siphon students from the surrounding area, neighborhood schools might face under-enrollment and closing.

If Oprah needs career advice, she could contact me at We would love to have her attend Hofstra. On the other hand, maybe Bill Gates could get her a job at one of his foundation-funded charter schools that pay a little better and don't give your cell phone number to the students.