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Forum Helps Teachers Pursue Their Dreams

by Jared Thornton '12

On May 11, 2011 Azusa Pacific University’s Office of Career Services hosted a Teacher Career Forum designed to help prospective teachers prepare for interviews. Nearly 150 prospective teachers filed in and out throughout the day. Representatives from 13 Southern California schools and school districts also attended.

The forum began with a panel of five human resources representatives from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Olive Crest, Upland Christian Academy, San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD), and Azusa Unified School District (AUSD). During this panel, representatives answered questions about what they look for in applicants.

The budget cuts affecting all California public schools was a common theme. Each panelist made it clear the cuts are impacting teachers’ abilities to find jobs because schools and school districts are “less willing to take risks” with the money they have left, according to Tim Hoy, superintendent of Upland Christian Academy. Consequently, since the schools want only the best teachers, the competition is tremendous. As an added hurdle, layoffs continue to occur. Tom Haldorsen, director of recruitment/employment for the San Bernardino City Unified School District reported that approximately 250 teachers have been laid off and 90 percent of those layoffs occurred at the elementary school level. As a result, the chance of being hired has suffered, and forced the Los Angeles Unified School District to “raise the bar in [their] hiring,” according to Vicki Shenkman, recruitment specialist for LAUSD.

The the forum host asked each panelist what they look for in an applicant. Some common traits resulted between the five representatives, including passion, confidence, leadership, managing a classroom, and working with children. Tim Hoy of Upland Christian Academy added that he wants an interviewee to inspire him in the interview. He believes that if a person bores him in the interview, they will bore the students in the classroom. Vicki Shenkman of the Los Angeles Unified School District said a quality she looks for is the desire to work in a “large urban environment.”

The panel portion of the forum was designed to help prospective teachers feel more comfortable and prepared for interviews in the teaching job market. Attendee Noelle Perkins of East L.A. College is pursuing a teaching career. After the panel, she said she felt more prepared for interviews and submitting resumes and applications thanks to the information provided. Perkins also noted that the questions asked were similar to those on supplemental questionnaires on many teaching applications.

After the panel, participants attended five workshops. The first workshop focused on job searching, teaching candidates skills to help them have a successful job search. The second workshop helped candidates learn to format their resumes in the most effective way possible. The third workshop reviewed interviewing skills. The fourth workshop was tailored for candidates who want to teach Special Education. The last workshop gave candidates the opportunity to identify other possible career fields based on individual skills.

When the workshops concluded, the prospective teachers practiced what they were taught by meeting with representatives from 13 schools and districts. Some of the district representatives also interviewed on the spot for available positions. APU faculty and staff also staged mock interviews with candidates who wanted to practice their interviewing skills.

The Teacher Career Forum gave prospective teachers the opportunity to be seen by potential employers before having to go through a rigorous application process, while also helping job hunters stay one step ahead of the competition by increasing their chances to become educators.