The Pittsburg State University’s teacher interview day moved a bit earlier on the calendar this year in an additional effort to plant the growing event in the peak of school district hiring season.

"It’s just an ideal arrangement," said Mindy Cloninger, director of career services at PSU, of the event.

"Certainly to have this many school districts to choose from in one location is highly convenient for students, but the hidden advantage is they do get the opportunity to interact in an impromptu way with other districts," she said.

Cloninger said the interaction available at the event is invaluable, and that the chance to get initial interviews done prior to spring break is helpful for both employers and teachers seeking their first jobs after graduation.

"We moved it earlier in the year according to feedback we were getting from employers," Cloninger said.

A total of 69 districts from around the region, including Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, were present.

"This is one of the most efficiently-run career fairs that we go to," said Wayne Burke, assistant superintendent at USD 230 Spring Hill. "I really think that Pittsburg State goes out of its way to make it really efficient."

Burke said his district, in the southern part of the Kansas City metro area, sent four administrators to the fair to conduct a total of 29 scheduled interviews Thursday, and he said the schedule also provides open slots that could accommodate more.

"We hire a lot of people out of Pittsburg State, and Pittsburg State has quite a few quality applicants," Burke said.

He and other representatives from Spring Hill said they likely have 6-8 openings in the district at this time, but that career fair opportunities are extremely helpful in their recruiting, both for current and future openings.

"The wider the net we throw out there, the more opportunity to get good, quality candidates," Burke said, adding that different types of candidates might be the perfect fit in different openings. "We’re looking for quite a few different people to meet our needs."

Meredith Little, a PSU alumna and library media specialist who attended as part of Spring Hill’s delegation, indicated that many students from the Kansas City area who have attended Pittsburg State may also be interested in returning to their home area.

"Some just are here and are willing to go anywhere," she said, adding that many others have honed in on specific districts.

"For the most part, a lot of the candidates have done a lot of good research," Little added.

Other students may enjoy the Southeast Kansas area or have local ties.

Henry Maus said his dream was to teach and that his wife has been teaching locally for 28 years, but he instead ended up in the printing industry.

"I was able to set aside enough funds to go to school full-time," Maus said, adding that he is excited to try to land a teaching position. "It’s what I feel I should be doing."

Maus said he is certified to teach history, physical science and Earth/space science at the secondary level.

"I wanted to be as employable as possible," he said. "It’s all about making contacts."

Plenty of area districts and employers offered opportunities to make contacts. USD 249 Frontenac and USD 250 Pittsburg were set up next door to each other, and USD 248 Girard and the SEK Interlocal 637 also were part of the line-up.

Dan Duling, director of the SEK Interlocal, said he always enjoys interviewing the next generation of teachers from his alma mater.

"It’s been a nice day today. Pittsburg State is doing well," he said. "It makes me proud to see it all at work."

Duling said the fair provides a first-round opportunity to screen candidates and then candidates may be called for other interviews.

"We first start collectively visiting with candidates and doing a screening process, then we take those candidates and work in tandem with local administrators," Duling said.

Rhonda White, an assistant principal at Pittsburg High School, said that while she encourages students to be open to other location possibilities, the fair also gives area districts a great opportunity to contact future teachers who would like to stay in the region.

"Probably there are PSU grads who would like to stay around the area," she said.

White added that the event is helpful for the students and districts.

"It really is a tremendous event for Pittsburg State to offer to the students of PSU, as well as for area school districts - to try to find a good match for each other," White said.

"You get to see a lot of people all at one time and they get to see you," Burke agreed. "The appeal for us is to get our name out there."