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Teachers vie for few open positions

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When a teaching job opens at a Clark-Pleasant or Greenwood elementary school, hundreds of hopeful teachers clamor for it.

The two school districts started looking for a total of about 30 new teachers at the end of the school year to replace teachers who had retired or resigned.

The number of new teachers needed could change between now and the start of school depending on whether any other teachers leave and how many students register and show up, according to Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck and Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains.

When schools need to hire teachers with specialized training, such as a high school physics teacher, 30 people might apply.

When the open position is to teach middle or high school social studies, about 60 candidates apply, DeKoninck said.

When the job is to teach a roomful of elementary students, usually hundreds of teachers apply, the administrators said. Recently, when Clark-Pleasant was looking for a third-grade teacher, 226 applied, hoping for an interview, Rains said.

The candidates who get interviews and eventually are hired are those who can clearly explain in their application and to their prospective principals what they will do in and outside the classroom to help students succeed.

Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood want teaching candidates to detail the experiences and ideas they’ve had to connect with students, Rains and DeKoninck said. They want to know what they think works best when teaching students, from a lecture in the classroom to a group of students doing their own research on a subject.

DeKoninck also wants teachers to take time to coach sports teams or run extracurricular clubs, so students will know their teachers care about their success.

“I want them to show me how they care about kids,” DeKoninck said. “Before anything good can happen, you’ve got to have a relationship built with students.”

At Franklin College, education department chairwoman Linda Airey tells graduates to highlight their time spent in classrooms in their applications so they’ll have a better chance at landing an interview.

Education majors start working in classrooms midway through their sophomore year.

They start by observing a classroom teacher before working individually with students who need extra help or leading small-group discussions, Airey said.

In their senior year, they start teaching. By the time students graduate, they’ve already been working in schools for about two-and-a-half years, Airey said.

“They get a lot of experience, and they learn so much from the teachers they work with,” she said.

Clark-Pleasant is part of an online group with six other central Indiana school districts that share applicants.

When teachers submit online applications to the group, they can see the positions open in all six of the school districts, and school officials can see the full pool of candidates who are looking for work.

School officials get basic information about candidates and have an easier time screening potential teachers that way, Rains said.

If a Clark-Pleasant principal sees an application online and wants to learn more about the candidate, a video interview is arranged.

From that short interview, the principal can then decide whether to ask the prospective teacher to come to the school for an in-person, full interview, Rains said.

While 226 people applied for Clark-Pleasant’s third-grade teaching position, 15 made it to the interview stage, Rains said.

During the in-person interview, the principal and other school officials want to hear about the kinds of teaching methods and experiences the applicants have had, and the best advice is to answer honestly, Rains said.

What’s most important is that both the school district and the teacher have the same beliefs about the best way to teach students, Rains said.

“You’ve got to make sure it’s a good fit on both ends, for the candidate as well as the district,” he said.

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