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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I feel compelled to respond to Veronica M. DeCrescio's letter about how she always wanted to be a teacher, but never went back to school to certify.

Please tell her to GO FOR IT! I am in a similar situation. I earned a B.A. in an unrelated field, but later realized I wanted to become an elementary school teacher. I am going after it -- even though it means I will be a student teacher at 50.

I am in school now and have five more quarters to go. This time around, college is even more intellectually stimulating and satisfying than before. Most of the students in my program are under 30, and I am old enough to be "Mom" to several of them. Age can be an advantage -- I have had life experiences these youngsters have yet to learn. Moreover, I have had the time to think about taking this life-changing step and am fully committed to my dream of becoming a teacher.

If I can do it, anyone can. We all have something of value to contribute to the field of education. Please assure Ms. DeCrescio that devotion and enthusiasm for the profession of teaching are much more important than one's age! -- MS. RANDALL START, BREMERTON, WASH.

DEAR RANDALL: True. I'm pleased to see someone with your life experience going into elementary education. People who love what they do are usually very good at it. You'll be a terrific role model for your students to emulate. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Your response to the individual who got her degree but was not certified to teach school was incomplete. If you meant she should try teaching and see if she likes it, I agree. But she should realize that substitute teaching without proper certification will get her nowhere unless she's willing to work in a private school for low pay, or work in a position where there are no health or retirement benefits.

This wanna-be teacher could, however, check with her local schools and see if they help uncertified staff go back to school. In my district, many of our teaching assistants have obtained certification in this manner and are now working as full-fledged teachers.

She also needs to check the local colleges and find out exactly what is needed to earn her certificate. It might come as a pleasant surprise, since she already has a bachelor's degree.

Please wish her good luck from me, Abby. You were right when you emphasized the need for good teachers. -- VETERAN SCHOOL SECRETARY, SYRACUSE, N.Y.

DEAR SCHOOL SECRETARY: Let it be lost on no one that one of the most important jobs in this country is teaching. Teachers can influence and motivate an entire generation.

DEAR ABBY: I am a college freshman, extremely shy, and not the most popular guy on campus. There is a girl I like, but she hangs out with a far more popular crowd. I talk to her often -- in school, online and on the phone. I would like to ask her out, but I am afraid she'll say no. What should I do? -- HOPELESS FOREVER IN NEW YORK

DEAR HOPELESS FOREVER: Ask her out for coffee. It's nonthreatening and it's not a formal date. It's two friends chatting and getting to know each other. Then ask her to a movie. If she's spending time talking to you on the phone and online, she's interested in you, too. Take a deep breath, count to three -- and call her now!

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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