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Districts, students hope to make a match

Soon-to-be graduates hoping to become new teachers have a good shot on Thursday, as the Office of Career Services and the College of Education are anticipating the highest number yet of participating school districts at Teacher Interview Day.
Districts, students hope to make a match
A student greets a potential employer at a past Teacher Interview Day.

"We're up to 100 districts from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, which is a big increase over last year when we had 83," said Mindy Cloninger, director of Career Services.   

Braden Eller, a senior education major from Pittsburg who has been student teaching at Webb City Junior High, will be among the 100 students vying for a job offer.  

"I'm looking forward to trying out my interview skills and going through the process for real," he said. "I'll be there to try to find a PE job as well as a coaching job in a community where the community is a part of the learning process – where they're involved and engaged. Not the job that pays the most, necessarily, but a place where they're engaged with students and the school."  

Cloninger said he has a good shot because he took the opportunity to prepare last week when Pittsburg State collaborated with the Greenbush Leadership Academy to stage Teacher Mock Interview Night with 30 emerging school leaders from across Eastern Kansas.  

"About 50 of our students participated and each completed as many as seven interviews with principals, assistant principals, and teachers, which really gets them ready for Teacher Interview Day," Cloninger said. "We heard comments like 'Now I'm ready'."  

Cloninger said Teacher Interview Day, which will be held in the John Lance Arena inside the Weede Gymnasium, and the mock interview held last week, are two of several ways Career Services and the College of Education work together to provide opportunities for students preparing to graduate. She and Assistant Director for Employer Relations David Hogard work with them on resumé preparation leading up to hiring season and visit them in their classrooms.  

At Teacher Interview Day, students will navigate through a series of scheduled interviews, but also can wait in "the bullpen" for unscheduled conversations with administrators.  

"A superintendent might approach them and say 'Hey, I see you're a music ed major, you want to come over and talk to me for a few minutes while waiting on your next interview? We might have an opening'," Cloninger said. "It's a significant job-finding event for both the students and the districts."  

Such was the case for Jessica Choate last year. Jim Dillon, high school principal at Jayhawk Linn, was in attendance. He, like other participating administrators, had received a flash-drive in advance with student resumés, and knew Choate had qualifications to teach Spanish.  

"We had lost a Spanish teacher in our program the year before so didn't have a class, but were thinking of bringing it back," he said. "I sought her out and visited with her, found out she wanted to teach Spanish, and ultimately our school board agreed to bring the position back and hire her."  

"I knew she'd be in high demand, so I called her immediately after their approval and she's here and doing a great job," said Dillon, who noted that about half of his staff of 22 are Pittsburg State graduates.  

One of the districts bringing the largest contingent of administrators on Thursday is Carl Junction, where Phil Cook, a 1992 PSU alumnus, serves as superintendent.  

He vividly recalls attending Teacher Interview Day 27 years ago to get his foot in the door.  

"I remember it well and have run across fellow administrators who remember interviewing me that day," he said. "Our being there is two-fold: it helps us find candidates — and we've hired a lot of really great teachers who were a result of that day — and it allows us to give back to our profession. It helps them gain experience and helps them make some contacts."   

"It's a tradition for Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas, the whole region — it's one of the best around," he said.   

This year, the Pittsburg State event also is among the earliest to be held.  

"School districts are starting to fill positions earlier, they're hearing from retiring teachers earlier, and we're giving our students a head-start on entering the workforce," Cloninger said.  

To learn more about Pittsburg State's College of Education, visit

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