by Kimberly Stauffer - Houston Chronicle

As a corporate pilot, Paul Lindsay once spent his days chauffeuring the globetrotting elite, but a dramatic career switch now has him grounded in the classroom instead of on the runway.

Lindsay, a resident of The Woodlands, was at the beck and call of wealthy Houston and Dallas families for 15 years, but after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his health took a nosedive and he was unable to remain physically fit to fly.

In search of a new career, Lindsay needed a job that allowed him to balance work and family, an aspect of his life he had neglected as a corporate pilot, as he was often gone for major holidays.

A flight instructor for several years, Lindsay used his teaching background and began volunteering at his daughter’s school, Conroe Independent School District’s Glen Loch Elementary, as a reading coach for 12 at risk pupils in the school’s bilingual program. Born in Peru, Lindsay learned Spanish as a child before his family moved around the world, including Brazil, England and Canada before he graduated high school in Mexico. He ended up staying through the end of the school year at Glen Loch and at the urging of district officials he sought his teaching certification.

“During the whole time I really enjoyed it,” Lindsay said of his time volunteering. “Dad and daughter going to work everyday.”

Lindsay enrolled in an alternative certification program and was accepted into the bilingual program at Grangerland Intermediate teaching fifth and sixth grade math and social studies, but now only teaches his fifth-grade classes.

Lindsay is one of a growing number of professionals changing careers later in life. A graduate of Louisiana Tech’s flight program, Lindsay said for the many doctors, engineers and stay-at-home mothers, teaching was never an aspiration.

After losing his health, Lindsay tried to find work as a flight instructor, but the market was deluged with other hopeful pilots searching for jobs. Too old to be an air traffic controller and unable to find work as a pilot, Lindsay new career found him.

“The opportunity just presented itself. I thought, the job’s right here, I’ll go to school with my daughter every day,” he said. “Everything just fit just right.”

Paired with a mentor, Lindsay and his fellow education converts brought new ideas and few expectations to the classroom.

“We come in with a very fresh outlook on education. We’re combining real world experience into classroom learning,” he said. “We come in with not so many preconceived notions.”

Tammy Hamilton, principal at Grangerland Intermediate, said new teachers starting their second careers in the classroom can give students a new outlook through the veil of their own professional lives.

“I think the life experience of being out in the business world, outside education, is just brings so much,” she said. “Their knowledge base is so much larger. We go to school to be teachers and educators. (Lindsay) brings a different twist. He can relate on a different level.”

Calling Lindsay “an outstanding teacher,” Hamilton said the pilot makes teaching at risk children look easy.

“He builds relationships with kids. He makes learning fun,” she said. “It’s a tough job. We’re an at risk campus and have all different kinds of students.”

At risk students often feel the pull of video games and hanging with friends or working instead of attending school, Hamilton said. Lindsay gives them a reason to show up.

“He has this ability to make kids want to come to school. When you’re at risk, it’s hard to read, hard to do math,” she said. “It makes coming to school a hard decision. They come because of him.”

At 43, Lindsay has found the perfect family-oriented career. Teaching affords him long summer and winter vacations and time with his wife and two daughters.

“Having a schedule is priceless. I missed all those holidays when the kids were younger.”

Keeping his eye on the sky, Lindsay said he will stay in teaching as long as he is enjoying it. “I’m not going to say I’m totally giving up on flying, but I’m very, very happy and my wife is very, very happy and my kids are very, very happy,” he said. ” I don’t see any immediate changes right now.”

Interacting with his students has been an added bonus to his newfound career. While the students present tough challenges for teachers trying to instill core subjects and skills, Lindsay he enjoys the children and their parents enjoy him and other dedicated teachers. “They make me laugh, those kids. They’ll say the funniest things,” he said. “And the kids’ parents in my school are extremely grateful their kids are getting an education.”