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Teacher Shortage Creates Competitive Market for Education Majors

edfair.jpgBy James Nix

BOONE–They came with flashy signs, competitive salaries and signing incentives.

Representatives from nearly 100 school systems in the Southeast courted new teachers among the education majors attending the Appalachian State University Education Job Fair.

The twice-yearly event is a priority stop for many recruiters. They packed the largest meeting rooms in the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center, allowing just enough space for graduating teaching majors to walk by or sit and talk.

Representatives from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia school systems interviewed Appalachian students in hopes of convincing them to teach at their schools.

“We have an excellent reputation here at Appalachian for our student teachers and our education program,” said Marjorie Ellis, associate director of Appalachian’s Career Development Center.

“These schools come here to aggressively seek out our students. It’s a nice compliment to our program.”

Bruce Bunn, a representative from Johnston County in North Carolina, said his school system attends all of the university’s education job fairs because the best teachers are trained at Appalachian.

“It’s flattering that (school systems) want our students, that we are doing that great of a job preparing them that they are willing to come here time after time,” said Ellis.

“Every student (attending this fair) can get a job today and there will still be jobs left over,” she said.

“There’s that much demand.”

Ellis, however, urges students to do their homework first and find the schools that are the best fit for them before signing a contract.

She said there are many opportunities for students interested in teaching.

Bunn offered some students signing bonuses depending on their field of teaching.

He said his school system was recruiting heavily and looking for the best teachers they could find. Signing bonuses helped do that.

“We’re very aggressive,” said Bunn.

“You have to be, with the teacher shortage.”

Most North Carolina schools offered some sort of signing bonus as a way to compete with school systems funded by proceeds from state lotteries. States with lotteries can offer higher salaries.

Many students, however, want to remain in North Carolina. Kelly Cirincione, a teaching fellow from Greensboro, must teach in North Carolina for four years to repay her state-funded scholarship.

She said some out-of-state schools urged her to consider joining them after her Teaching Fellow contract ends.

“Every school system is trying to make themselves as visible as possible and appealing as possible,” said Cirincione. “There’s definitely competition.”

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Picture Caption: Steve Gough, a senior elementary education major at Appalachian State University, talks with Judi Moffill about teaching options in the Randolph County school system. Approximately 100 school systems from six states courted prospective teachers during an education job fair held at Appalachian. (Appalachian photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger)