Radford University students looking for employment opportunities in PK-12 education packed into the Peters Hall gymnasium Friday, Feb. 28, for the 2014 Spring Education Career Fair.
Sponsored by RU Career Services and the College of Education and Human Development's Office of Field Experience, the annual event brought representatives from school districts from all across Virginia, and a few from neighboring states, to meet and network with RU students, alumni and other professionals who are interested in working in an educational setting.
This year, approximately 50 school districts and more than 300 RU teacher candidates attended the fair.
Suzanne Rice is director of human resources at Suffolk Public Schools and a 1984 RU graduate. She attended the career fair with the intent of looking for teachers in "hard-to-staff" areas such as mathematics, special education, earth science and technology education.
"We're looking for good teachers here because I know Radford has a quality education program. I'm a product of it," Rice noted. "I wanted to come back and grab some good, quality teachers."
To prepare the education students for the career fair, faculty in RU's School of Teacher Education and Leadership (STEL) conducted mock interviews with the students.
"For example, many of our programs invite area principals, special education directors and assistant superintendents to campus to conduct mock interviews with our student candidates," said STEL director Kenna Colley. "The candidates are prepared with their resumes, are in professional attire and rotate every 15 minutes for brief interviews with these professionals in the field. This strengthens our partnership with these school systems and provides them with a glimpse of our strong teacher candidates."
Additional preparations for the fair came from the Career Services staff, which reviewed resumes and conducted resume, networking and career fair prep workshops. Ellen Taylor, Director of Career Services, said that those career workshops and mock interviews teach the career-readiness skills that prepare the students to enter the job search with confidence.
At the fair, students, dressed to impress and armed with smiles and resumes, spent the morning making the rounds through the numerous tables set up in the gym. Many scheduled one-one-one interviews with school representatives for later that day.
Some of the students were "offered contracts on the spot," Colley noted. "A great thing in this tough economy."
Kathryn Jones, who will be graduating in May with a master's degree in special education, attended the career fair looking for the "right fit," she said.
"I want to find a connection with a school system I feel I can build a life with," said the Madison native. "I have a couple (of schools) I have my eye on."
Many of the school reps had their eyes on RU's soon-to-be teachers as well, and many said they came to the Spring Education Career Fair because RU's reputation for developing quality teachers.
"Radford has a really great education program," said Laurie Edgar, a human resources administrator with Chesapeake Public Schools. "We have had success finding and hiring teachers from Radford, and they have been successful in our school district."
Candice Newcomb, a senior from Farmville majoring in deaf and hard of hearing education, said she and the other RU education students have been well prepared for networking with potential employers and entering the classroom as teachers.
"My advisor (STEL faculty member Ellen Austin) has been amazing," said Newcomb, immediately following a one-on-one session with a school representative. "She has thrown us into every situation possible that could prepare us."