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Financial professional turns teacher, in name of happiness


May 05, 2011

Life isn’t about money for Nevin Culley. It’s about passion and believing in what you do.

Culley, 40, gave up a lucrative career in the financial services field to go to Arizona State University and earn majors in English literature and secondary education. He followed his dream by lining up student loans and tackling college classes to fulfill a double major all while raising three children with his wife, Phaedra, who decided to go to ASU for her geography degree at the same time.

“It was time to start doing what we really want to do,” Culley said. “It does take a lot of juggling, but I feel it’s definitely worth it.”

“I was never happy with what I was doing,” Culley said. “The day to day routine wasn’t fulfilling. People are so stressed out in the finance industry.”

Culley graduates in May with a 3.97 grade-point average after wrapping up his student teaching assignment at Desert Ridge Junior High in Mesa. He’s currently searching for a job teaching junior high or high-school students. Working with kids has always been his primary goal from teaching martial arts to coaching sports.

Culley enjoys teaching the adolescent age group when students go through a range of emotions and attitudes.
“The kids are great. They’re all over the place. One minute they’re down and the next they’re up,” he said.

Teaching will also give him the opportunity to indulge his other passion – writing - during the summer. Writing fantasy and science fiction stories are favorite forms of expression and he’s learned to craft new styles such as screenwriting at ASU.

“I’ve always loved to write,” he said. Beside screenwriting, favorite ASU classes include creative fiction and children’s literature.

His three children, ranging in age from 12 to 16, have found some aspects of having parents in school stressful when itcomes to making sure they get where they need to be on time and making time to study.

“We make sure that they go to the birthday parties, sports and activities they want to go to,” Culley said. “There’s definitely not a lot of down time in our house, which I think is good training for teaching.”

Culley lives with his family in Polytechnic campus housing, traveling to classes in Tempe most days of the week. “The shuttles are well used,” he smiled. 

All of the juggling and finding time to make everything work is worth it for Culley, who is looking forward to the future when he lands a teaching job and is able to pursue his true passion.

“I have come to a point where life is not about the money. I’ll take a cut in pay. Happiness is worth it,” he said.

Contributed by Julie Newberg