From mines to minds: Carl Hall makes transition from coal mine to classroom

10:00 am | October 3, 2013

After working for 18 years in Virginia’s coal mines, Carl Hall uncovered a new career in education.Photo by Brandon Hicks

The former miner is now working as a fifth-grade teacher’s assistant at West Side Elementary while continuing to search for his own full-time teaching position.

Hall, 59, said he worked the night shift in four different coal mines in Wise, Va., during his 18-year career, one he chose as a way to support his family after graduating from high school.

So, after nearly 20 years in the mines, why the switch to minds?

Hall said he typically worked a midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, but during his last few years the crews’ shifts were extended to around 12 hours a day, six days a week.

“They knew the mine was almost out of coal and they wanted to get it out and get out of there,” he said.

In 1995, when Hall was 42, his mine was closed and he was laid off.

He started attending college at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise to get his bachelor’s degree in business, but one of his professors told him he should consider teaching literature.

Hall said that seemed like a good fit for him because he had always enjoyed writing and has penned hundreds of poems in his spare time. In addition, he had worked coaching peanut football for 10 years while in Virginia.

“I loved coaching the kids and I like helping people,” Hall said.

After getting his degree, Hall didn’t go right to work in education; he worked in various call centers and in the electrical department at Lowe’s.

Then he got a taste of the classroom.

When his sister was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, Hall took a job as a substitute teacher so he could have a flexible schedule allowing him to help her when needed.

“While I was doing that, I realized I enjoyed it,” Hall said. “It was the first time I walked away from a job and felt really good about myself. I was more satisfied then than with anything I had ever done.”

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