It felt more like car shopping than job hunting. The nearly more than 40 North Carolina school districts on hand for the School of Education & Human Science’s Education Career Fair on Oct. 24 were on display as roughly 100 soon-to-be graduates looked for the right “make and model.”
With a teacher shortage still looking both statewide (North Carolina currently has more than 5,000 vacancies) and nationally, finding work straight out of college isn’t a matter of “if,” but “where.”
“For nearly all of our students, they have job offers months before they graduate,” said Dr. Al Bryant, dean for School of Education & Human Sciences. We’ve had districts drive over two hours — districts from Virginia and South Carolina — to be here, because everybody’s looking for teachers, and we are graduating quality teachers at Campbell.”
Roughly 45 student teachers are set to graduate from Campbell this winter and next spring, but the crowd in the ballroom of the Oscar N. Harris Student Union also included sophomores and juniors — in addition to non-teaching majors who are also in high demand for school districts (for example, history majors make great history teachers).
“We are looking for anyone who has a strong desire to impact young people,” said Annette Walker, human resources generalist who represented Edgecombe County Schools (Rocky Mount and Tarboro) at the fair. “If you have an open mind and a willing heart, then we’re willing to train you and help you become the teacher you want to be. If you’re willing to invest the time and energy that it takes to become a great teacher, then we’re more than happy to invest the time and energy in you.”
Teachers and other non-teaching positions in North Carolina public school districts are employed by local boards of education, but are paid on a state salary schedule that takes several factors into account. Where school districts can differ from each other is through “salary supplements,” which differs from county to county.
Dr. Kathleen Castillo-Clark, elementary education program coordinator and assistant professor whose research focuses on higher ed teacher preparation programs and the factors that go in to teacher retention at the K-12 level, said salary supplements, location, available openings, training programs and extra incentives for students with master’s degrees are all part of the “package” for students looking for their next step once they earn their degree.
“There is a shortage of positions, but there is a shortage of graduates, too,” she said. “It’s hard to find quality candidates right now. The incentives, the supplements, the mentor programs and their touting their area’s cost-of-living rates are all selling points for these districts.”
Senior Kara Ange has interest in working in her native Wayne County (Goldsboro, Grantham), but said she entered the career fair with an open mind and open ears to what other districts can offer her.
“I’m looking for a district that offers a lot of support for their teachers — not just beginning teachers, but for those who may be feeling burnout or dealing with behavioral issues in their classrooms,” said Ange, who said the best part of teaching is seeing the “light bulb” moment in a young person’s mind. “Support is so important — teachers deal with a lot in their careers that not everybody considers.”
And for senior Piper Burton, she wants to go to a district where she can have the biggest impact in a career she’s dreamed about having since the third grade.
“I have a natural love for learning, and I just want to share that with others,” she said. “I feel like a lot of that starts with school. I’ve grown up with my siblings, both struggling and succeeding within school, so I’ve seen both sides of it. I understand where kids stopped liking the school, not just because when it gets hard, but because there’s no support or encouragement there to encourage them to take that extra step. I feel like once they get over that, then they discover, that ‘aha moment.’ That’s what I’m looking for.”