March 23, 2010 12:00AM
Senior Lora Winters was one of more than 100 education majors perched nervously in chairs lining one end of Weede Gymnasium on Tuesday, taking a few final moments to breathe before sitting down with school district administrators in hopes of landing their first teaching jobs.
"I think I have what it takes," said Winters, whose emphasis is English education. "I'm nervous because know there aren't a ton of jobs out there, and the interview process is scary. But I've practiced, I've looked over questions they might ask and thought of questions of my own. I think I'm ready."
And with the sudden clanging of a bell, the first 25-minute round of interviews began. The annual spring Teacher Interview Day at Weede Gymnasium featured more than 50 school districts from Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska interested in speaking with Pitt State students to see who would be a good match.
This year, the competition is stiff. School districts have had their budgets cut and are still waiting to hear final word from the capital for next year. In the past, districts were competitive, sometimes offering students a higher starting pay or other incentives for them to sign a contract on the spot. At some teacher job fairs across Midwest, Arkansas City (Kan.) Assistant Superintendent J.K. Campbell would watch as districts wrote out checks to students to cover their moving expenses. In his 3,000-student district about three hours from Pittsburg, there are normally 20-30 teacher openings a year.
"Even though we're still waiting to see what we can do as far as hiring, we still have to make these contacts and get to know students," he said, looking over his roster full of interviews. "Sometimes at larger universities, the students are not necessarily interested in relocating. And PSU is known for their education program. We're looking for teachers interested in professional growth and student achievement."
To give themselves the best odds for finding a job, some students had packed their day with as many as 10 interviews, putting no limitations on where they'd interview for a position. For Keith Adams, head principal of Liberal (Kan.) High School, a district about 400 miles from Pittsburg, this is a decision he personally understands.
"I moved there myself because it was a good job offer with a good salary. So I can speak to students from experience," he said. "The reality is the job market is slow. It surprised me that it has dropped, because I thought education would somehow be sheltered."
Mindy Cloninger, director of Career Services, the PSU office sponsoring the event, said that although most schools aren't offering jobs as readily as they had in the past, she is pleased that districts are still making the effort to get to know students, who have worked hard to prepare.
"This event is different than other career fairs we offer, because it provides students with the valuable opportunity to have real interviews," she said.
College of Education Dean Andy Tompkins echoed the benefit to students. "We're very excited about this day. We enjoy having the school district administrators on campus and we appreciate the great relationships we've formed with them over the years."