School systems generally hire new teachers over the summer, when teachers coming from other systems have wrapped up their school year, and when most new teachers graduate college.
But education majors graduating this month are finding themselves in high demand.
Maiah Jones, who graduates this month from Bowie State University, said she had “four, maybe five” job offers already, mostly from Prince George’s County and one from Charles County, where she lives.
She’s not alone. All 21 education majors graduating from Bowie State this month have jobs lined up.
It’s not just local school systems targeting Bowie State grads, either. Dr. Rhonda Jeter, who is the dean of Bowie State University’s College of Education, said they hear from schools in Connecticut and Wisconsin, and even get recruiters from as far away as Las Vegas, Sacramento and Alaska.
“The fact that we’re an HBCU, and there is certainly a decline in teachers of color, or people who are interested in working with students of color in urban areas — we’ve become very popular,” said Dr. Lynne Long, the chair of teaching, learning, and professional development at Bowie State’s College of Education. “We have to turn people away.”
Another one of the students on track to graduate this month, Karla Vanegas, of College Park, talked with schools in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, as well as D.C.
“I was really just looking for a place that felt right when you walk in,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be in a school that reminds me of my elementary school — which also reached out to me.”
New teachers put a lot of thought into picking what they hope is the right school for them to launch their careers: “the environment, the school setting, the individuals I work with, how comfortable I am there,” said Jones. “Also, the commute — that plays a big role too.”
Jones sees herself teaching special education and then becoming a licensed speech pathologist, which means getting a master’s in special education teaching, then another degree in speech and language pathology at Gallaudet.
“Teaching is not easy,” she said. “This is not the easiest job, to deal with different people, different personalities.
Vanegas is bilingual, and wanted to find a school with a Hispanic population. In January, she said, she’ll be taking over a class at University Park Elementary that’s currently taught by a long-term substitute.
“It’s very exciting,” said Vanegas. “They have a plan. I felt like it would be … a smooth transition.” She also wanted to know “How is their team? Do they collaborate? This is my first year teaching and normally I would start in August and go through professional development. Here it’s sort of just jumping in and taking over.”
She saw the curriculum, and “how they plan weeks ahead of time, so it’s like, OK — I’m still learning, but at the same time, it’s time to step in.”
Jeter said even if one of the graduates doesn’t pass all their assessments (known as Praxis) the first time, it’s not deterring school systems.
“They have already come up with an alternative for us,” Jeter said. “Any student who has not completed their Praxis II and they are undergraduate students, they can come to Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Howard County … either as paraprofessionals or long-term subs. If they are graduate students who have not completed all of their assessments, then they can come as a conditionally licensed teacher. So they will actually be a teacher if they have a degree already.”
This is the last year that Bowie State, or any other school, will be graduating education majors in December. So while students such as Jones and Vanegas interned at schools last spring and again this fall, future student internships will line up with typical school years.
That only figures to spur more competition for schools to hire teachers before the start of the summer.
“Our career center is having a career fair for teachers” this month said Long, who oversees professional development of new teachers. She said school systems will be recruiting students who are still six months or so away from graduating.
“They want to get on the pipeline now and not wait until May to hire.”