Four years ago Eugene Leisinger saw the handwriting on the wall. His job at Bayport Elementary School was secure, but he reasoned that the future was not. So after six years of teaching he quit the classroom and joined a financial-consulting firm.
Marlene Yarusso was less perceptive - or, as she puts it, ''I was always hopeful.'' After nine years in suburban St. Paul elementary schools (preceded by 19 years teaching in parochial schools) she was ''discontinued'' last year, a victim of cutbacks, consolidation, and the seniority system.
In the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul area, home to half of Minnesota's 40 ,000 licensed, practicing public school teachers, approximately 2,700 teachers and administrators were put on ''unrequested leave'' last fall. According to the Minnesota School Board Association, about 1,400 have not been called back.
For Mrs. Yarusso, 1 of the 80 teachers in her district to lose jobs, substituting is one way to stay in the education field.
''I take whatever they give me, just so I can teach,'' she says, matter-of-factly. Noting that her assignments have included ''7th- and 8th-grade music and media specialist for K-6,'' she says she misses a sense of ''belonging ,'' which subbing does not provide.
On the other hand, Miriam Kagol, a suburban Minneapolis high school English teacher who was discontinued last year after being put on ''half-time, then eight-tenths time, then three-tenths time,'' finds substituting a pleasurable way to be free from committees and the burden of lesson preparation.
''I like the variety and the absence of routine,'' says Mrs. Kagol, 1 of 6 substitutes in her district whose benefits are being subsidized by the St. Louis Park schools' faculty under a project called SOAR (Save Our Available Resources).
Richard Raygor found an education-related job outside the classroom. Hearing about an open position at TIES (Total Information Educational Systems), a consortium of 60 school districts that serves as a regional computing center, he applied and was hired as an instructional-services coordinator. His job, he explains, is to teach teachers how to operate a computer and understand its software.
Adjusting to an office environment was not a problem, he says.
''I like the flexible hours - 30 kids aren't waiting for you to get there in three minutes flat. Also you don't have the discipline problems and high energy level of junior high kids to contend with. There's much less stress here, and it's nice not to gobble down lunch.''
Joel Tormoen, a social studies and English teacher with a minor in journalism , was hired as an account executive by a large Minneapolis advertising agency two years ago. ''My first assignment,'' he recalls, ''was to meet with a media planner, who turned out to be an old student of mine! Our roles were reversed.''
Mr. Tormoen is not bothered by the fact that he now takes direction from people often several years his junior. Nor does the lower salary overly concern him. He feels his future is secure - even in the volatile world of advertising - and that financial rewards as well as advancement opportunities are in the offing. Although he does not have a background in business, he says his classroom skills - organizing, communicating, making presentations, and setting up objectives and strategies - serve him well in his day-to-day dealings with clients.
Carol Peterson, a grade school teacher turned bookkeeper, says assessing one's skills and redirecting them can be particularly challenging for teachers, given the ''insulation of a classroom against the real world.'' After being ''pink slipped'' last spring, she evaluated her abilities: ''I knew I had leadership and organizational skills, but having no office experience, I wasn't sure how to apply them. I interviewed for a job at a bank and was told I could be an office manager. I had no idea what that meant.''
Having been hired by her uncle, whose Minneaplis-based company manufactures biological safety cabinets for sterile work environments, Miss Peterson says she is finding a whole new vocabulary in the world of ledgers, bills of lading, and accounts payable. ''My biggest fear,'' she says, only half-jokingly, ''is that I'll make a mistake, and there goes the company.''
While she is considering a future in accounting, Miss Peterson, who has a master's degree in education, would like to return to her third-graders. In the meantime she teaches Scandinavian folk dancing to youngsters and, ever the educator, reads poetry to the secretaries at lunch.