State

From mortgage firm to teacher

Katharine Haro-Stroud makes far less than she did in the mortgage industry. But "this is probably the best job I've ever had," said the 44-year-old Turlock woman, who teaches at Community Business College in Modesto.

Haro-Stroud had worked for a mortgage company for 17 years when she was laid off in 2007. The news shocked her: As one of the highest-paid employees at the firm, she was one of the first to go.

She found her way to the business college as a student, taking computer classes to refresh her skills.

"I graduated in June 2008, and on July 1, I was hired here to teach property management courses," she said.

Though she worked as a trainer in her last job, Haro-Stroud didn't imagine a career in teaching. She was pretty nervous the first time she got in front of a class.

"People are looking to us for the answers, but in this economy nobody has all the answers," she said.

Working with people and watching them grow and learn brings her a satisfaction she didn't expect. "I love it," she said.

In addition to property management, she's teaching a course in medical office management.

"You go through a lot of changes when you get laid off," Haro-Stroud said. "People come to us down and depressed."

After a few months of training, students are ready to get back in the work force.

"Coming to school every day is an effort, it's like a full-time job," Haro-Stroud said. "Then the job placement and trying to find a position -- it's hard to get the courage to do that."

Haro-Stroud doesn't hesitate to admit her salary is significantly lower these days. She's had to make adjustments to her spending.

"You almost have to live a different lifestyle," she said. But there are nonmonetary rewards that mean a lot more: "There's a pretty big celebration when somebody gets a job, or even an interview."

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