The University of Massachusetts Amherst

K-12 Education

Alumna Stephanie DeFranzo, Head of Teacher Success at NextLesson, Inc., in San Francisco, CA

Stephanie DeFranzo's current position supports teachers with standards-aligned K-12 projects and lessons that engage students in real-world problem solving through topics they love. While at UMass, Stephanie was a Peer Advisor for the Sociology Department and a Research Assistant for UMass Social & Demographic Research Institute, volunteered with MASS PIRG, and studied abroad abroad in South America with Living Routes.

About the Industry

While people generally think of teaching when they consider possible careers in elementary and secondary education, there are actually many avenues to employment in K-12 education. Most positions are in schools, but there are also positions in school district central administration, including human resources, budget offices, curriculum development, and more. Additionally, there are non-school based education opportunities, for example, in the testing industry, digitally based teacher support services, tutoring services, and more.

Sample Classes

Below are a few examples, but we urge you to talk to your major/departmental advisor and explore available courses in SPIRE. Remember not to constrain yourself to classes within your major.


ANTHRO 104 - Culture, Society and People: The nature of culture and its role in creating forms of social, economic, and political life in diverse historical and geographical contexts.


COMM 260 - Public Speaking: Practical communication in one-to-group contexts. Theoretical bases for structuring and presenting public speeches.


ECON 397 - Education and Economics: This course will examine contemporary issues in U.S. education through the use of economic theory and current research literature.  


Depending on your main area of interest, your academic pathway will shift. To explore this field, you can take courses that will provide you with knowledge and skills in:


  • Critical, analytical and creative thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Effective communication skills
  • Teamwork and leadership
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Disciplinary knowledge for various curriculum areas
Co-Curricular Activities

Being involved in on and off campus activities and organizations will give you experience and help you hone in on what you really love doing. Consider joining organizations that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the professional areas you’re considering. You’ll learn more about the field, meet people who share your interests, and have something to include on your resume to show your dedication. Go to the RSO webpage and start searching!


Examples include:

  • Center for Education Policy & Advocacy (CEPA)

  • Future Educators

Internships and Experience

Explore the different aspects of the industry through internships, co-ops, job shadowing, and other experiential opportunities. This will help you hone in on your interests while building an impressive knowledge base and resume for when you enter the job market. Before going into teaching, it is important to gain experience in a classroom setting, or with responsibility for a group of children. This is significantly different than babysitting and is not for everyone. Afterschool programs and summer camps are excellent ways for college students to get this experience. Students with an interest in the policy side of education can get experience in settings such as state departments of education or research institutions. SBS students and alumni have completed internships in this field at places like:


  • Connections After School Program
  • Danvers Public Schools
  • Leeds Elementary School - Northampton, MA
  • The May Institute
  • Mathematica Policy Research
  • Urban Institute
  • Massachusetts Department of Education


Find an internship or co-op that suits you by using these search and application tips and by searching the Career Connect database.

Sample Job Titles
  • Teaching Paraprofessional
  • Reading Specialist*
  • Elementary or High School Teacher*
  • School Adjustment Counselor*
  • School Administrator*
  • Education Policy Specialist
  • Head of Teacher Success
  • Program Analyst
    *Typically requires additional schooling beyond Bachelor's level.