MORGAN -- Jason M. Allen once pored over details on blueprints, inspected soils slipping in landslides and cut cross sections of failing roads.
Now, he's mentoring teens, assigning math homework and scrambling to develop new lesson plans.
It's a tale of an economy gone sour and an unfulfilled dream that turned this former engineer into an educator.
"Ever since high school, I've wanted to be a teacher," said Allen, who now teaches geometry and algebra at Morgan High School.
"I considered it many times but talked myself out of it because of the money.
"I decided, instead, to pursue engineering, knowing in the back of my mind that someday I would become a teacher."
It took eight years, but he decided to make the career change when he was laid off as Morgan County's staff engineer.
The decision admittedly took a lot of soul searching, he said.
"I decided that money is not the most important thing in life," Allen said in an e-mail.
"The most important thing in life is being happy and taking satisfaction in what you do for a living. I needed to do what makes me happy -- helping young people develop a passion for learning and a love of mathematics."
Although the differences between engineering and education abound, it's the social interaction with people that is the most striking to Allen, whom his peers call a people person.
"There really wasn't enough interpersonal interaction to make me happy in engineering," Allen said.
"Some of my engineering peers have been a little surprised that I would walk away from an engineer's salary to have to deal with teenagers all day."
But Allen is finding that his unique background in applied mathematics helps his students relate abstract mathematical concepts to real-life problems.
And officials with the Morgan County School District appreciate the relevancy and enthusiasm Allen brings to the classroom.
"Unfortunately, practical experience and academic knowledge doesn't in itself produce a good teacher. Much of effective teaching is an art that some individuals simply have," Morgan Superintendent Ron Wolff said in an e-mail.
"We were excited when Jason interviewed because we saw both the knowledge and the types of attitudes and characteristics that we look for in a teacher. This is especially important in a discipline such as math, where relevancy is a key component to student motivation and understanding."
With both undergraduate and graduate degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Utah, Allen is finding himself as a student once again.
He is pursuing a master's of education degree at Weber State University, partly because the program will help him obtain a state teaching license within about 16 months.
Allen recommends such a career change to anyone else who is unhappy or frustrated with their current career.
"There is something extremely rewarding about driving home from work each day knowing that I helped young people become better people in some way," Allen said.
"Every day, I look at the students in my classes and I see endless possibilities."
Allen doesn't believe it when his students say, "I'm just not good at math."
"I believe that our minds are naturally hard-wired to be successful at math. I think that those students who believe they are bad at math really just have no confidence in themselves when it comes to mathematics," Allen said.
"My goal is to break down those feelings of inadequacy by instilling confidence into each of my students and helping them believe in themselves."
Allen has found teaching to be more demanding than he would have guessed, based on the amount of preparation he has to put in before class.
He also struggles with students who want good grades but are not willing to put in the necessary work.
But the rewards keep him going.
"Watching the students buy into the belief that they are smart and they can be successful in math," he said, "is the most rewarding part of my job."