Fordham Notes: GSE Panel Offers Tips for Aspiring Educators in a Tough Job Market

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

GSE Panel Offers Tips for Aspiring Educators in a Tough Job Market

James Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of GSE, discusses how new
applicants can navigate the changing education field.
Photo by Joanna Klimaski
For new educators entering the job market, optimism and exuberance often collide with anxiety and frustration as they meet the realities of the field: Shrinking budgets, changing school configurations, and steep competition that can dampen their dreams of running a classroom.

But on March 5, several prominent New York educators offered encouragement to undergraduates, graduate students, prospective students, and current educators who gathered for a presentation at the Graduate School of Education (GSE).

The panel, “Careers in Education Today: Developing, Updating, and Promoting Your Skills in Today’s Job Market,” covered topics ranging from improving one’s marketability to navigating alternative teaching jobs.

Moderated by Linda Horisk, assistant dean of admissions at GSE, the panel included:
  • Abigail Woods Ferreira, career counselor at GSE;
  • James Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of GSE;
  • Rakeda Leaks, Ed.D., senior director of teacher recruitment and applicant services at the New York City Department of Education;
  • John Lee, Ed.D., clinical professor and vice chair of the Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy (ELAP) division; and
  • Marilyn Terranova, Ph.D., superintendent of the Eastchester School District.
The panelists began by chronicling their own circuitous routes into the education field. While today’s job market may seem to offer few opportunities for new teachers, the panelists had to walk the same labyrinth of temporary and nontraditional teaching jobs that many young educators begin with today.

“They opened themselves up to mobility, whether it was location—being willing to move to where a job was located—or by taking alternative paths, not only coming in as a substitute or on a temporary basis, but working in different fields related to what they were doing,” Horisk said.

Leaks, of the NYC Department of Education, urged participants to remain open to working in various locales, since many job openings are in schools in the Bronx, central Brooklyn, the far Rockaways, and other places that would entail commuting.

She also highlighted several areas with shortages, including secondary special education, earth sciences, and educators with dual certifications in English as a Second Language and a particular subject area.

Terranova echoed that need, adding that many districts need secondary math teachers, foreign language teachers, and people who can teach at the middle school level.

In addition to working as classroom teachers, participants ought to consider administrative work, Lee added. Schools have a number of positions in areas such as professional development, literacy and math coaches, and other leadership roles.

Besides seeking certification in high-needs areas, participants can also improve their skills as prospective hires.

“You need to be proficient in using interactive white boards, using media in your lessons, using these tools to capture the interest and motivation of students,” Terranova said. “So when you interview, that’s something you should bring up. We’re always dying to hear about how teachers use technology.”

As for the dreaded paradox of young applicants who answer jobs postings that call for “years of experience," Lee said to think outside of the box.

“Experience isn’t just a paid job—it’s other things you’ve done,” he said. “You can have different kinds of experience doing research, organizing events, volunteering, all of those things. You have to think about what skills you have.”

The presenters ended on a positive note, urging participants to persevere despite the challenges of the changing field.

“In New York City for this current school year, we hired almost 5,000 teachers,” Leaks said. “There are definitely opportunities out there, but you have to be realistic about the hiring landscape, be flexible, and make yourself as marketable as possible by getting certifications.”

“The requirements for entry into teaching as a field have strengthened, have been made a little more challenging,” Hennessy added. “The field is changing, but there are opportunities for people who have the desire, the intensity, the passion to make a difference.”

— Joanna Klimaski

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