April 15, 2011
Fewer offers at teacher recruitment days
Number of schools looking to hire at annual SUNY Cortland event continues downward trend
Kayla Evans sat among rows of college students Thursday, waiting for a Teacher Recruitment Days staff member to summon her for an interview with a school district in Virginia.
“It’s a tough time,” said the SUNY Cortland senior, a secondary English education major, “but I’ll gain a learning experience from this, even if I don’t come away with anything.”
Evans joined about 600 other undergraduate and graduate students from colleges in the region Thursday and today, as they met with school district recruiters from around New York, Maryland, Florida and Arizona.
This week’s 28th annual event at SUNY Cortland’s Park Center Alumni Arena showed — as it did the past two years — the trends in education, with only 53 recruiters from 30 school districts on hand to interview potential teachers. The number of students was down from about 900 less than 10 years ago.
Districts across not just New York but the Northeast have been cutting jobs as they try to balance budgets, in a time when state aid has been drying up and property taxes are not enough to fill the gap.
“We had 350 recruiters in our peak years, not that long ago,” said Louis Larson, who managed the event for years and was helping Thursday despite having retired in December from SUNY Cortland’s career services office.
“Even if they have jobs to fill, many districts don’t have the travel money now to come here,” said Karen Ham, SUNY Potsdam’s career services director. “North Carolina districts have jobs but didn’t send anyone this year, so students will have to contact them.”
Evans, who is finishing her student teaching at Dryden High School, said college students know how difficult it will be to find work in their chosen field, from monitoring the news and from what their professors tell them.
But they are doing their best, dressing up and taking their resumes to the schools that are filling vacancies. Some jobs must be filled, so schools can offer courses necessary for students to graduate with Regents diplomas or to meet state mandates in special education.
Evans said she chose teaching English as a profession because her teacher in 11th grade in Medina, in Orleans County, inspired her.
Standing nearby, waiting to interview another student, high school principal Tom Nichols from Stafford County, Va., said he has hired seven teachers from the SUNY Cortland event in four previous trips.
“We hire about 200 teachers a year, because we have a lot of turnover with military bases nearby at Quantico,” Nichols said. “We hired a tech education student from SUNY Oswego and a couple years later he became a sheriff’s deputy. Today I’m looking for tech education, literacy, math and physics teachers.”
On the other side of the arena, SUNY Oswego graduate student Laurie Edwards said she was confident she would find a technology education job. She was waiting to be interviewed by Nichols’ district and two Maryland districts.
“April 1 was when teachers had to notify districts they were retiring, but other jobs will open up in the next couple months as other teachers decide to retire,” she said. “Tech ed is not mandated at the high school level in New York, but it is in some states, so I would have more career longevity there. Here, it’s mandated in middle school but it’s an elective in high school so it can be cut.”
Edwards, from Saratoga Springs, said she decided to become a teacher, then explored becoming an architect but did not want to go to college for five years and handle the difficult work load. She feels she can teach drafting and design in technology education.
John Tompkins, a reading specialist from Charles County, Md., said he was looking for special education, early childhood, math and science teachers. He said that after a few hours he had interviewed 13 students, mostly in the sciences.
A student from Elmira College received a contract from Palm Beach, Fla., schools during the afternoon, a staff member said.
Among the students in their 20s sat Steve Chunglo, 53, who is finishing a degree in teaching Spanish and French at Elmira College.
Chunglo said he majored in European history at Cornell, then received a master’s degree in information technology at Syracuse University and spent his career in computer technology, most recently at Corning Inc.
His wife is a florist who could find work anywhere, and their children are out of college, so Chunglo said he can move if necessary.
“This was something I’ve been thinking about for 10 years,” he said. “This is not the best market, but I’m hopeful. Schools are cutting French so I have both. We’ll see what happens.”
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