Soon-to-be teachers flock to education career fair

Talk with Ashley Bryan for 30 seconds and you’ll love history. She does, and it’s contagious.

“It’s the one subject that hits everything. You can talk about history with anything, whether it be philosophy, economics, religion, architecture… anything,” Bryan said with enough spark and energy to light up the Radford University campus.

“History is the one subject, you can argue, that has something for everybody,” she said. “Everything has a history!”

Bryan, a senior from Blacksburg, wants to share her enthusiasm and admiration of the past by being a high school history teacher. She’s been preparing for a teaching career at Radford University, and when she graduates in May, she’ll be ready.

On March 18, Bryan was among the many students talking to representatives from 72 school districts from all over Virginia, pitching their skills and knowledge in hopes of landing a teaching position.

Sponsored by Radford University Career Services, the annual event brought the representatives to campus to meet and network with Radford students, alumni and other professionals who are interested in working in a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educational settings.

Dressed in business attire and equipped with resumes and smiles, the students spent the morning making the rounds to numerous tables set up in the gym. Many scheduled one-on-one interviews with school representatives for later that day.

A little more than an hour into the event, Kamie Cornett had already secured five interviews.

Cornett is scheduled to graduate in May with a master’s degree in early childhood education and special education. She began working with pre-school children when she was in high school and realized then she wanted to have a positive impact on children.

“I love seeing kids grow from what they are into who they can be and what they can learn. It’s an awesome feeling watching a student learn,” said Cornett, a Roanoke native. “I just love seeing their progress as they learn and how happy they are when they learn something new and they can tell somebody about it.”

The passion that Cornett and Bryan exhibit is exactly what schools are searching for when it comes to hiring teachers, said Doug Straley, the assistant superintendent for Louisa County Public Schools.

“The first thing we look for is someone who is passionate,” Straley said. “They have a passion about working with young people and making a difference in their lives. I’ve seen a lot of that today. It’s very exciting.”

Cole Spencer, director of human resource for Smyth County Public Schools, said he was at the fair looking for teachers who are “fully invested” in their students.

“All through school I had teachers who really spoke to me. That’s what we want,” Spencer said. “We want teachers who have a passion for helping students learn more than just the subject they’re teaching. We want our teachers to make sure every kid in their classroom knows they have teachers who care about them, care about who they are and about their success.”

While Radford students have the requisite passion for their subjects and students, the university’s School of Teacher Education and Leadership prepares them with the tools they need to enter the classroom, said graduate student Molly Arrington.

“Oh, it’s incredible,” said the graduate student from Roanoke who was offered early contract acceptance by a high school during the fair. “It’s a pretty intense program, and it really prepares you for being a teacher.”

The program also prepares its students for securing teaching positions, said Michelle Graham, a graduate student from Blacksburg who plans to teach history.

“We’ve had mock interviews. We’ve had people come in to talk to us about what our resume should look like. We’ve been very well prepared,” Graham said.

As for the classroom work, Graham explained that “in the master’s program, we started taking classes and began student teaching almost immediately. Some people may stress out about that, but I thought it was really helpful because you learn something in class and you’re like ‘Oh, let’s use this in our student teaching.’ You can use what you learn almost immediately.”

Straley sees the passion and said his school district has hired “several teachers” who have graduated from Radford. “They’ve been good quality teachers, and we’re very impressed with the program Radford has to prepare students to entire the workforce and be successful.”

Mar 24, 2016