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Morning Sun
  • PSU student teachers reach out at Teacher Interview Day

  • The past few years have been rough on education graduates looking for the teaching positions they want as school districts struggled to cope with cuts to state aid.

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  • The past few years have been rough on education graduates looking for the teaching positions they want as school districts struggled to cope with cuts to state aid.
    Regardless, eager Pittsburg State University student teachers who are preparing to graduate spent much of Thursday going through the interview process at Pitt State’s Teacher Interview Day.
    The annual event brings soon-to-be graduates of the university’s teaching program together with representatives from Four State Area school districts. Throughout the day they participate in scheduled interviews with up to six districts, said David Hogard, assistant director for employer relations in the office of career development. This year, more than 110 student teachers signed up for interviews.
    That number is smaller than last year’s class of 153 students, the largest class of teachers ever at Pitt State. But it tentatively looks like the fortunes of school districts may be starting to shift; last year only 46 districts sent representatives, but this year, 65 registered for the event.
    “Economy-wise, it’s been pretty difficult for school districts,” Hogard said. “But it looks like districts are slowly getting to where they can hire again. They’re becoming more stable and able to hire. In the heyday of this program we’d have more than 100 districts here. I hope we can get back to that.”
    The challenge for the students is that many of them want to stay in southeast Kansas. But about 22 percent of the area’s teachers are over the retirement age and it appears teachers are hesitant to retire in the current economy.
    But jobs are available, said Jean Dockers, director of teacher education Dockers, if students are willing to relocate to less well-known locations.
    “Some districts are hiring, especially for graduates certified to teach in certain specific areas,” Dockers said. “Also, students who are not place-bound and who are willing to relocate will have better luck finding a teaching position.”
    Senior Paloma Perez is looking for a position as a school psychologist.
    “I love education and the school setting, and working with the people and kids in the schools,” Perez said. “It’s a good environment, and I didn’t want to go into clinical psychology. This way, I’ll also be able to teach things to the students.”
    As a school psychologist, Perez will give referrals, do achievement testing, organize individual education plans and facilitate meetings with teachers and parents, among other tasks.
    “I’ll try to work with the strengths of the students,” Perez said. “It’s something I love. I focus on the things they can do.”
    Tom Lawson is the director of special services for Spring Hill USD 230, south of Kansas City, Kan. Lawson said his district sends three administrators to PSU’s event each year.
    Page 2 of 2 - “They always produce good graduates and quality people,” Lawson said. “It’s always nice to come down and interview the candidates. They come from a quality program at a quality school.”
    The interview day is also a chance for new beginnings. Darrell Crown spent 26 years as a computer programmer, but said he felt pulled toward a second career as a teacher.
    “I’ve always been working with students in some capacity,” said Crown, who wants to be a math teacher. “Throughout my life I’ve seen kids in various environments with a lack of math skills, whether it’s the kid at the cash register at the gas station who gets upset if you don’t have exact change or someone pulling out a calculator to add two numbers. I felt a desire to try to go back and be someone who would give those kids problem-solving skills.”
    Crown, who is from Fort Scott and lives in Parsons, said he would like to stay in the area, but that he is not beholden to it.
    “Southeast Kansas is really home for me, but I’ll go where the work is,” he chuckled.
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