Changing Fields: Tough going for teachers

BY CHRIS CLARK | APRIL 06, 2009 7:40 AM

UI senior Michael Goldberg is keeping his job search simple — a technique that seems to benefit all college graduates getting ready to enter an unstable job market.

“My goal is to find a place to teach,” he said.

An improvisation comic for nine years, Goldberg said when talking to prospective employers, he stresses the benefit of having a unique personality at the front of the classroom.

Though he said he isn’t worried about ending up unemployed, he may have to settle for a less-than-ideal job after graduation.

Getting a head start is especially important in today’s job market because “schools are trying to figure out how to operate with the fewest number of teachers possible,” said William Coghill-Behrends, the associate director of the UI Educational Placement Office.

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Goldberg said he has seen that problem firsthand.

“A couple of the districts said they were having a teacher retire, but they were not sure if they were going to fill the spots because they don’t have the funds,” he said.

Representatives from the Kansas City Kansas Public School District attended last week’s UI Education Job Fair to look for students who aren’t set on a specific place to work. Recruiter Mary Ventura said she used to have the authority to offer a job at such events, but because of recent budget cuts, she can’t.

Nonetheless, Ventura and colleague Theresa Van Goethem identified some fail-proof characteristics in today’s job market.

“The need for special-education [teachers] is universal,” she said, and foreign languages, math, and science positions are also “hard to fill.”

Ventura and Van Goethem said a leading candidate for a position has previous work experience, has studied abroad or is multilingual, and is familiar with technology.

Director of the Educational Placement Office Rebecca Anthony said it’s beneficial for students to keep open minds about what exactly they’ll do and where they’ll work.

Goldberg said although some friends from his hometown in Deerfield, Ill., are only looking for jobs in the Chicago-land area, he is open to working anywhere he feels comfortable.

“I don’t want to limit myself,” he said.

Goldberg attended last week’s job fair, where 19 school districts — from Illinois to Arizona — came to meet future graduates.

“It’s extraordinarily beneficial,” Goldberg said. “Without events like this, I probably would not have thought of as many places to apply.”

Despite the unstable job market, Coghill-Behrends is confident in UI education majors, saying students are taking their work seriously.

“School districts are going to hire a teacher that they can let walk into a classroom on the first day without having to worry,” he said.

Besides an impressive résumé, Ventura and Van Goethem said confidence, enthusiasm, and a solid work ethic are essential for a qualified applicant.

“You know when a student is really into it or not,” Van Goethem said. “You can just sense it.”

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