In 1971, Janet James entered the workforce right out of college, at that time there were limited options for women. Jobs for women consisted of nursing, teaching, social work or being a secretary.

(Photo Courtesy of Janet James)

(Photo Courtesy of Janet James)

James became a band director and music instructor at Spruce High School during the racially tense 70s. This was a time of court-ordered busing. Fights and riots were enough to discourage anybody from the task of teaching, but James persevered. By her sixth year, she was burned out and resigned.

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She heard of an opportunity in the Dallas Independent School District’s (DISD) community relations department. She applied for the position and was hired.

Through the Adopt-a-School program, she worked with the Dallas Chamber of Commerce to get businesses to donate money, equipment and volunteers at 32 schools. Due to a reduction in force, her job was eliminated and after five years, she once again looked for employment.

James learned of an opening at El Centro College. She applied for the position of public information director and was hired. Because of budget crunches, El Centro needed staff to teach human development. James enjoyed teaching so much, she volunteered and taught two semesters.

Tell us about your experience teaching human development at El Centro.

“That’s when I knew I needed to go back to school. Teaching keeps you connected with all of the other things you do in running an institution, and I wanted to expand my teaching opportunities.”

What was your experience being an adult returning to school?

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“For five years, I was guilty every day. Should I stay at work and get the work done or should I go home and study? My job required 10-to-12-hour workdays. I was trying to do both.”

James earned her master’s degree in liberal arts from Southern Methodist University 20 years after graduating from UT-Austin. Because of her intense work schedule, she took one class a semester. It took her five years to complete her master’s degree.

What did your new degree empower you to do?

“It empowered me to teach humanities part-time for five years along with my full-time job at El Centro and to apply and obtain the position of special assistant to the president at Richland College with the opportunity to teach humanities there.”

What value did education have in helping you find work?

“I feel that the value of my liberal arts education was pivotal in equipping me to meet every work/life challenge I faced. It is what allowed me to survive resigning and downsizing. Every step of the way, everything I did always mattered. Through this journey, I am right where I’m supposed to be. That is the most magnificent feeling in the world.”

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Robin D. Everson is a native Chicagoan who resides in Dallas, Texas. Her appreciation for art, food, wine, people and places has helped her become a well-respected journalist. A life-long lover of education, Robin seeks to learn and enlighten others about culture. You can find her work at