Heading back to school—as a teacher—at 50

By Rebecca Kirkman on May 15, 2019

College of Education graduate Theodore Dardaris ’19 embraces his passion and embarks on a second career

Theodore Dardaris
College of Education graduate Theodore Dardaris ’19 at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air, Maryland.

At age 50, Theodore Dardaris ’19 is embarking on a second career: teaching.

The special education and elementary education graduate came to Towson University’s College of Education after a 20-year career as a trial specialist and paralegal.

“It was a pretty stable career, and it was a lot of fun,” says the father of two boys, Jesse, 9, and Elijah, 3. “But I was doing a lot of traveling, and it wasn’t really what I chose. It was kind of what happened to me.”

Now Dardaris has refocused on the career he’s truly passionate about. “I always wanted to teach, but I kind of took a roundabout approach,” he says with a chuckle. After dropping out of school at age 15, Dardaris worked his way into a successful law career despite his lack of traditional education. 

“Having done everything that I’ve done, I come back to the classroom now with a whole different view,” Dardaris explains.

He hopes to give today’s students a better experience than his own. “If somebody had approached me and been able to engage me and catered to my learning style, I would have probably hung in there.”

Dardaris came to TU in the fall of 2017 by way of Baltimore County Community College. With scholarship offers from multiple universities, Dardaris was sold from the moment he arrived on campus at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland (TUNE).

“I walked in and the person who would become my adviser, Toni Guidi, happened to be out in the lobby. When I walked in the door, she knew who I was right away and called me by name,” Dardaris recalls. “She shared that excitement, and that [presence that says], ‘I see you, and I am here to work with you.’ That was huge for me. I thought, ‘Yup, this is where I want to be.’”

Dardaris found that TU’s program, especially the cohort system at TUNE, sets education students on a path for success. “One of the greatest parts about that whole system is I went to school with the same 20 or 30 people all the way through,” he says. “You get to forge relationships. It was so different than my community college experience.”

Opportunities to engage in the community—from volunteer events on and off campus to his teaching internship at Southampton Middle School in Harford County—provided valuable networking and hands-on experience for Dardaris’ resume.

While volunteering in the Sandbox makerspace during the Educators Rising Conference this spring, for instance, Dardaris made some important connections. “People meeting me when they went through the makerspace led to two job interviews with school districts,” he says. “Those are the type of opportunities Towson provides.”

Another asset to Dardaris? The ability to develop faculty relationships.

In addition to Guidi, who served as his adviser and director of special education programs at TUNE, Dardaris worked closely with Jessica Moore in special education and Rebecca Maloy in elementary education. “They’ve been there for me every step of the way,” Dardaris says. “I can't imagine you get that kind of attention from any other university. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Pamela Lottero-Perdue, a professor of integrated STEM education in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, was another mentor. “[She] helped in turning the curriculum into workable lessons in engineering and earth science,” Dardaris says.

After Commencement, where he’ll be cheered on by his wife, mother and siblings, Dardaris already has his first full-time teaching job lined up.

“They’ve offered me a job in Harford County, where I’m currently interning,” Dardaris shares with excitement. “My internship actually led to a job. This is part of why I chose Towson University to begin with. They have all of these internships in place and it puts you in a great position.”

MORE INFORMATION

Studying special education at TU

Towson’s special education programs will prepare you to develop and implement individualized educational strategies based on the learning needs of each student.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TIGER Way.