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English: Southwood Two-Teacher School

English: Southwood Two-Teacher School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mont Pleasant Middle School teacher Sarah Trombadore described her last job as a “gun for hire,” but has since swapped her time in front of a judge for that of students.

Trombadore, a converted English teacher now in the Schenectady City School District of New York’s Capital Region, spent years practicing family law. However, as some landmark events unfolded in her life and she witnessed her husband transform his career into what he loves, she also decided to change course.

But, going from lawyer to teacher has more implications than a simple pay cut, at least for her family, many of whom are lawyers. “There is less prestige,” she said, as well as the loss of the “oh!” factor accompanied with telling people she practiced law. Law is her family’s business, she said, and her father was one of the major influences in her decision to take up law.

Trombadore, originally from New Jersey, often tagged along with her dad on a number of legal errands, as he suffered from polio and was relegated to writing with a pen in his mouth, and often had to be driven from place to place by his wife, Sarah’s mother. The young Trombadore was getting a lot of exposure to the legal climate simply as a function of her two primary caregivers always being on the go, she said.

She eventually became an expert in land use. However, George Pataki’s administration was laying off DEC employees at the time and there was not much of an opportunity to get work. She then began looking for something outside of the environmental field and landed a position at a small family law firm in Saratoga, New York. She had a knack for it, but said “it really grinds on you… I had trouble leaving it at work.”

Since the firm was fairly small, she saw a lot of time in court and said the position was pretty hands-on. She compared the experience to being a doctor in an emergency room. It was fast-paced and “exciting.”

She was passionate about giving children a voice and was glad to be able to advocate for infants and teenagers alike. But, still, she had a nagging feeling that her line of work was wrong for her. Clients getting divorced were vindictive, she said, and often wanted to inflict legal damage on their soon-to-be ex-spouses.

“I was a gun for hire,” she said. “People wanted to do … damage. No one wins in a divorce.”

What followed was a series of events that eventually built up to her decision to call it quits. After the tragic events of 9/11 she said she had experienced a “watershed” moment.

Her father was diagnosed with brain cancer and died shortly after 9/11, and coincidentally, her uncle was as well. In addition, her husband who was an architect decided to drop it all to become a full-time horse trainer. “I saw him do what he loves and be passionate and make a change in his life,” she said. “He kind of blazed a trail for me.”

She, too, wanted a change. In 2002, she had not yet left the practice although she did take time to stay home with her second child. When she returned to work she said she was only taking children as clients. It was in 2004 when she met up with a friend who taught English that the spark caught into a fire.

Her family was not necessarily on board, though, as they saw law as something that showed off the family’s best attributes. It was not easy for them to accept that she was leaving the field to pursue teaching. Some people still pass judgment on the decision, which for her, ultimately left money out of the equation.

According to information from May 2012 U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers in New York state make an average of $151,850 per year, while Middle School teachers net about $74,550 annually. For her, food, housing and a college fund for her kids are paramount and everything after that is gravy, she said.

She will definitely not go back to practicing law. Now in her fifth year teaching in Schenectady, Trombadore said she is happy and doing what she loves.

Dan Sabbatino is an award winning journalist whose accolades include a New York Press Association award for a series of articles he wrote dealing with a small upstate town’s battle over a the implications of letting a “big-box” retailer locate within its borders. He has worked as a reporter and editor since 2007 primarily covering state and local politics for a number of Capital Region publications including The Legislative Gazette, where he currently serves as assistant editor.

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Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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