Elementary Education major Marcus Cornelius said he was nervous Tuesday as Teacher Interview Day began at Pittsburg State University. But things got better quickly.
"It went from nerve wracking to feeling like I was in my comfort zone," Cornelius said.
The event paired students with school district representatives for rapid-fire, 15-minute interviews. A bell signaled when students, resumes in hand, were to move to their next scheduled appointment.
Even in good employment years Teacher Interview Day can be stressful for newly minted teachers. This year, with fewer jobs available as a result of state budget cuts, the pressure was even greater for each candidate to be at his or her best.
Cornelius said the school district representatives helped him settle his nerves.
"The people (conducting the interviews) are making it easier," Cornelius said. "They have been just great."
Dr. Howard Smith, dean of PSU's College of Education, said he appreciated the school districts' support for Teacher Interview Day.
"There are some districts here who do not have any open positions at this time or are unsure whether they will have any this year," Smith said. "We really appreciate these districts taking the time with our students. The interview experience for students is so helpful."
Jean Dockers, director of teacher education, said that although it is a challenging year for new teachers, jobs are available.
"Some districts are hiring, especially for graduates certified to teach in certain specific areas," Dockers said. "Also, students who are not place-bound and who are willing to relocate will have better luck finding a teaching position."
David Hogard, assistant director of PSU's Office of Career Services, said 46 school districts participated in Teacher Interview Day. That's down from some previous years, but still respectable in the current environment, Hogard said.
Hogard agreed with Dockers' assessment of the environment for new teachers.
"Budget cuts have forced some districts to reduce their teaching staffs and it seems more cuts may be on the way. On the other side of the equation, some teachers may be delaying their retirement because of the uncertainty the recession has caused. Together these factors mean the competition for the jobs that are available will be stiff," Hogard said.
He added that a tighter market for new graduates may actually be a bonus for some school districts who have struggled in the past to fill some key positions. Hogard noted that districts that may not have been the top choices of new graduates in previous years are getting more attention from graduates.
"We do the sign-ups for the interviews online," Hogard said. "A number of districts had their entire day filled within six minutes of the posting."
One representative from a rural district with several openings said he noticed the difference.
"I've been coming here for several years and I think I've been busier this year than ever before," he said.
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