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Calling All Teachers

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

It’s been a year since Theresa Canada drove more than five hours to attend the Rutherford County Schools’ Teacher Recruitment Fair.

She had already committed to moving to Middle Tennessee.

Now she just needed to secure a job.

The annual recruitment fair proved successful.

Canada had been active in the weeks leading up to the 2016 event. She had emailed several principals beforehand and hoped her decision to drive to Murfreesboro and then back home in a single day would afford her an opportunity to “meet people and they could put a face to the resume.”

Canada’s hope became a reality because it was precisely the reason Rutherford County Schools started hosting their own recruiting fair for prospective teachers.

This year’s RCS Teacher Recruitment Fair is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 11. It takes place from 9-11 a.m. in the Blackman High School gymnasium.

The district will be hiring more than 400 new teachers for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.

Principals from all 47 schools in the district, including the soon-to-open Rocky Fork Middle School, will be on hand along with key administrators — assistant principals, RTI coaches and lead teachers — to meet with and interview prospective teaching candidates.

Looking back at last year’s fair, Canada said she made sure to do her own do-diligence beforehand rather than have blind conversations with various principals from throughout the district. As much as it was an opportunity for her to introduce herself, Canada knew who she was hoping to meet.

Canada said she kept her resume to one page – highlighting her 10 years or experiences and her specialized field as well as having a master’s degree – and made sure to have plenty of copies.

It only took one.

She met Mary Jo Yeager and within moments the principal at Daniel-McKee Alternative School offered Canada a preliminary contract to teach special education. A year later, Yeager referred to Canada as “fantastic.”

As Saturday’s recruitment fair approaches, Canada offered potential attendees some advice.

What did you anticipate?

I was wondering how I would handle dropping off resumes to enough of the (schools) because I went prepared with my resume.

So your concern was having enough time to meet with as many principals as you had hoped to talk with?

Right. I was coming from another state and not knowing what to expect at all. … Probably two weeks prior – maybe even three weeks prior – I started emailing principals and every one of them said, “See me at the job fair.”

Once you arrived at the job fair what was your strategy?

Since I’m special education, they actually had a table set up and I went over and talked to the lady right away. And then I had picked out the top principals that said, “see me,” and I was ready to go, but Mrs. (Mary Jo) Yeager (principal at Daniel-McKee Alternative School) actually caught me midstream and she said, “Don’t give out anymore resumes.” (laughs)

Lets go back to when you first arrived at event. What’s the atmosphere like? I would assume it’s a little overwhelming and yet filled with a lot of anticipation.

My biggest thing was where do I go first? Who do I want to see first? I’m an older person and see all these young kids fresh out of college. I’m looking at them thinking, ‘What do I have that’s better?’ Having been around the workforce for a while, I went to the tables that were empty first because I think some of the kids had chosen where they were going to go so I went to the emptier tables. I did give out some resumes and, like I said, if anyone had (previously) responded to me and said, ‘Meet me at the job fair,’ I made sure that I stopped at that table and tried to give them a resume as long as the line wasn’t long. I wanted to get through as many as possible. But, like I said, when Ms. Yeager found me, we were done.

How did she find you?

I think I walked up to the Daniel-McKee table and asked one question. She looked at my resume and said, ‘We talked on the phone, didn’t we? Or I emailed you?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said ‘come with me’ and that was it.

Where did you go and what happened next?

We went to meet with Leslie Duke (Human Resources Certified Analyst for Rutherford County Schools) because (Ms. Yeager) was so pleased with what she had seen. I guess it’s a good sign of a resume.

Let me get this straight: you went to the Daniel-McKee table, handed Ms. Yeager your resume, she recognized your name and basically offered you a job?

She (told) me about the school and what it was, and for me, it was a new challenge because I had been teaching elementary, but she knew I had a master’s in emotional behavior, which helps a lot.

What was your feeling?

Being in special education – because there’s limited people out there – I know how she feels because when you have a new student or a new teacher, who hasn’t taught and doesn’t know how much paperwork is entailed with special education, some of them are ready to quit within a month after coming into it. We talked about caseloads and things like that. I had, had 32 on my caseload and she said, ‘Well, this will be a lot easier. You won’t have as many. The only thing is, they’ll be coming in and out.’ And paperwork doesn’t bother me so I guess I said all the right things to hit what she was looking for.

On the drive here, what goes through your mind? What thoughts were you wrestling with?

My first thought was, why was there such a big need? … Then I see that Tennessee is growing like hotcakes, Middle Tennessee. I noticed this is a fast-growing county. I thought about the schools themselves. I did research before. I researched all the high schools before I even applied to any of them or sent out my little email. I looked at the socioeconomic. I looked at the students coming in and the population and the number of special education you were looking at. And also, when I put out those feelers with the emails, Murfreesboro responded to me more than any of the other counties.

It’s an aggressive school district.

That was the other thing someone told me, Murfreesboro had the first job fair. … So Murfreesboro is actually snatching up the best of the best.

OK, so once you’re introduced to Leslie, you’re filling out a preliminary contract.

Right.

How do you feel at that moment? What’s going through your mind?

My thought was, did I make the right choice? Am I rushing into this? When Ms. Yeager handed me her personal cellphone number and said, ‘Call me if you have any questions’ I knew I had picked the right place. When your principal is so behind you before you even start, it makes you feel so good.

What’s it been like in the year since the recruitment fair?

This is like I have the best family. If you could have someone just reach out and hug you, this is how I feel coming from another state. My mentor that I have has been wonderful. Ms. Yeager has been wonderful. Everybody has been wonderful. I feel like I’ve been here a long time.

What advice would you have for anyone who is considering or already made the commitment to attend the recruiting fair?

Make sure you go. They don’t necessarily have to visit everybody. I think doing my research and knowing what I wanted helped me to be a little more sure as to who I was going to visit because it’s very overwhelming when you walk in there and see all those schools.

 

PHOTO: KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Daniel-McKee Alternative School principal Mary Jo Yeager (L) with Theresa Canada (R), who was hired at last year's RCS Teacher Recruitment Fair. This year's fair will be Saturday, Feb. 11 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the gymnasium at Blackman High School.