07/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How an IBM Employee's Early Retirement Led to a Math Classroom

When Jim Siegfried was an undergraduate in the early 1970s, he wanted to become a teacher. But there was a large surplus of teachers at the time and mentors advised him to consider a career elsewhere.

Siegfried chose a career in business and spent several decades working for large corporations in the food service industry. Later, he went to work for IBM in Texas as a manager in a customer support department, where he spent nine years.

But Siegfried had never given up on his classroom dreams. At age 51, he started planning for early retirement from IBM and began working toward a master's degree in teaching. By 2005, he had completed a good deal of his coursework when IBM got interested in teaching, too.

IBM has a reputation for progressive thinking and programs aimed at helping employees transition to meaningful encore careers. An expected shortage of teachers in the coming decade led the company to create Transition to Teaching, a program that helps employees transition to second careers in teaching. The shortages are expected to be especially acute in math and sciences -- areas where IBM's workforce has no shortage of expertise.

Siegfried was accepted to the program, which meant $15,000 to offset his tuition, the strong support of supervisors and the freedom to take a leave of absence from work for student teaching. He was hired in the fall of 2007 to teach math at an elementary school in Arlington, Texas. There, he was assigned to work with a classroom of children who were struggling with a state math test that must be passed to graduate to the middle school level. In his first year, Siegfried helped 12 of his 15 students pass the exam.

Read the full story at RetirementRevised.