At National Able Network (Able), we have a remarkably dedicated and talented team of instructors for IT Career Lab, all of whom bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the program. One IT Career Lab instructor in particular, Derek Atchison, is using his unique experience and background to inspire and motivate his students as they start down their new career paths in the information technology industry.

Derek taught high school science for 18 years in the Chicago Public School system, a career that he loved and planned on continuing until he retired. However, Derek was unexpectedly laid off and went to Able’s Chicago Workforce Center in Pilsen to inquire about unemployment benefits. It was there that he learned about Able and the IT Career Lab program.  He was intrigued by the accelerated pace of the 16-week program and the blended format of web-based and face-to-face instruction but was still hesitant to try something new and out of his comfort zone.

Derek consulted some trusted friends, did some soul searching, and eventually decided to take a chance and enroll into IT Career Lab. In May of 2015, Derek graduated from IT Career Lab with three globally-certified certifications: CompTIA Network+, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician, and Cisco Certified Network Associate! He credited his success, in part, to the support of Able’s staff and was particularly grateful to his instructor Charles “Chuck” Lay whose faith kept Derek motivated through all of the challenges he faced throughout the program.

A few weeks after graduation, Derek attended a Cisco Exhibition at a local community college and by chance ran into his former IT Career Lab instructor, Chuck.  Chuck again showed his faith in Derek when he told him about an open instructor position with IT Career Lab. Even though Derek was a very accomplished educator, he was still nervous and skeptical about teaching a new subject but ultimately trusted Chuck’s judgment. Derek’s confidence was on the rise when he applied for the position and got the job based on his newly acquired IT knowledge and past teaching experience.  Derek was further embolden when he solicited his first class’ feedback after the first couple weeks of course and the response was overwhelmingly positive. One student wrote, “The instructor makes me feel like I can learn this material and use it!”

Derek is currently teaching his second IT Career Lab course and has settled back into his role as an educator, a role that brings him tremendous personal satisfaction.  His command of the complicated material, his ability to make it accessible to his students, and above all, his willingness to connect with his students through their shared experience allows him to inspire, motivate, and engender a sense of confidence in his students. “As a student and job seeker, IT Career Lab was my pathway into a new career,” says Derek; “and now as an IT Career Lab instructor, I believe in and support the mission and the vision of the agency!”

Best of luck, Derek!

If you are unemployed or underemployed and are interested in learning more about IT Career Lab, call 855.994.8300 or visit www.itcareerlab.org today!