As One Career Wraps Up, Finding That Next Role

When she was just 10 years old, Mary Jackson began her teaching career on the back porch of her family’s home in Easley, S.C.

It was there that she set up her chalkboard and led her imaginary classroom. “I would use my yardstick to tap my make-believe students who misbehaved, or didn’t get the right answer,” Ms. Jackson said.

Her passion led her to earn a teaching degree at the University of Virginia in 1977, but her career took a detour when, after graduation, she accepted a position at IBM. The job paid $4,000 more a year than the teaching job she had been offered, so she snapped it up.

After three decades with Big Blue, she retired, and now Ms. Jackson, a 59-year-old former IBM project management executive, is finally in the classroom, and not just imagining it. She teaches math and science to fifth graders at Lockheed Elementary in Marietta, Ga.