A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Life Experience: At 60, new teacher at Tates Creek looking toward new challenge, not retirement

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

With a 60th birthday coming up in October, some people would be eagerly looking toward retirement. But Lowell Outland is simply turning a page to the next chapter – this time, as a teacher at Tates Creek High School.

“It’s overnight success that took 40 years. It’s amazing how life will change on you,” he said good-naturedly as he prepared for the start of school. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an interesting journey – probably one of the more interesting transitions I’ve made in my life.”

Born in Paris, Tenn., Outland moved with his family to Wisconsin when he was eight years old. In the mid-1970s, he dropped out of high school. Twice.

As he turns 60 in October, some people would be eagerly looking toward retirement. But Lowell Outland is simply turning a page to the next chapter – this time, as a teacher at Tates Creek High School (Photo Provided)

“I didn’t always make the right decisions,” he readily admitted.

Five years later, he opted to join the U.S. Air Force. During his 12-year stint, he completed his GED and cultivated an interest in electronics. After military service, Outland made what he called good money at a tire plant in Western Kentucky until it closed.

That prompted him, at age 47, to enroll at Somerset Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in electronics, computer maintenance, and industrial maintenance.

“If I’d gone to college right out of high school, I wouldn’t have made it. The older I got, the more I had self-discipline to do it. You do the best you can with what you’ve got and keep moving forward – even if it requires a change in your pathway,” Outland said.

Ten years ago, he joined an electronics company in Lexington, but downsizing and layoffs some 18 months later meant he was again at loose ends.

Undaunted, Outland enrolled part-time at Morehead State, earning a bachelor’s degree in technology and engineering in 2013.

For the past seven years, Outland worked as a custodian at Tates Creek High while studying at Morehead and continuing to look for a job in his field. Then came the latest pivot.

“I got used to the kids, and everyone said ‘You should be a teacher,’” he recalled.

So after completing his certification through the Troops to Teachers program, Outland checked for opportunities in Fayette and surrounding counties.

“It just so happened they needed someone here this year, so I applied for it and they offered me the position,” he said.

Outland closed out his custodial duties at the end of July and was immediately immersed in new teacher orientation and mounds of paperwork. In his classroom, he spent recent days setting up computers and loading software for his digital photography course. He’s also teaching graphic communications.

Outland is anxious to ask students why they signed up for these electives, and he thinks they will enjoy his approach.

“Stories from what I know and what I’ve done will excite some people,” he said. “What I can bring to the classroom is life experience.”

He can also offer plenty of commonsense advice for today’s students.

“There’s more than one way to get places, and if one way doesn’t work out, you try something different,” Outland said. “You keep pressing forward. You can’t always make the right choice the first time, but you don’t quit. You can make a mistake and still come back from it.”

“Always be adaptable and willing to change, whatever life throws at you,” he added. “Sometimes your dreams don’t work out the first time, but just keep going and never give up.”

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools

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