Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas is looking for more than a few good men and women. He says between Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties there's a need to hire five to six hundred new teachers for the next school year. And to get that process started, the district is holding a Teacher Fair this Saturday for anyone interested in becoming a teacher in the county. "If you've thought in the back of your mind 'I'd like to be a teacher I wonder what's expected of me? I have a college degree but I'm not sure if I have the rest of the pieces', this teachers fair is to provide information to those people who think they want to be a teacher and we'll explain what it takes to become qualified."
Thomas says no one will walk out of this event with a job. The district wants to meet candidates, target the ones that would they believe would make the best teachers and let them know what kind of documentation and certification they need to have when they are invited back for a second fair in the spring. The superintendent says this is the first year they have tried this approach. They had a different type of fair last year, where applicants came and were hired on the spot. But many good candidates did not have the proper transcripts or certifications with them, so this two tiered approach is being tried this time.
Elizabeth Oakes, the Director of Personnel Services for the Escambia County School District hopes this unique event will allow the district to find qualified teachers faster. She says they are willing to talk to anyone from anywhere to see if they'd like to come to Escambia County and be a teacher. "There is a teacher shortage going on in the entire United States, and the more we can do to help the profession, to educate individuals on how they can become a part of our profession, it's in our best interests and their best interests."
Once it comes down to screening candidates, Oakes says there’s no perfect system. "You'll see (companies) such as Microsoft, as large as that, with very intricate question systems, you'll see groups like Google do multiple interview sets to see if they can find the right person. And at the end of the day it's still a system of just judging what you see across the table and taking that chance and seeing if it will work."
Oakes says the district has hired people from across the country to fill openings in classrooms…and also people who may be coming to education as a second career. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says that’s fine, as long as the candidate has the right background. "You're going to have to have a college degree, you can't escape that. You're going to have to pass the teacher certification exams if you did not go to some teacher training program. And we hire a number of people that way each year. They were in industry, they had a career and now they're retired but they are still young enough (and) they think they can contribute. We'd love to have them come and consider our team in Escambia County. We're always looking for Math and Science teachers. If you had a career in the military or some other occupation where your math skills and science skills are strong, and you want to give back, you want to make a difference in the lives of young people, we think we have just the job for you."
And the first step towards getting that job is the Teacher Fair. It’s this Saturday morning at the Booker T Washington High School in Pensacola. Registration begins at 8:30 and the speakers program starts at 9 am. That will be followed by breakout session for the rest of the morning. The fair runs until 1 pm.