Preparing Teacher Ed Grads for a Successful Job Search

Samuel Galloway ’01 6th Year, director of human resources at Bristol Public Schools, reviews a student’s resume during the Education Career Fair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)
Samuel Galloway ’01 6th Year, director of human resources at Bristol Public Schools, reviews a student’s résumé during the Education Career Fair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Many school districts across Connecticut hold Neag School of Education teacher education graduates in the highest regard for potential employment.

Throughout the Neag School’s partner school districts, juniors and seniors in the Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s (IB/M) program get firsthand student teaching experience in urban and suburban classroom settings; during their fifth year in the program, students receive further preparation through various professional development offerings and on-site internships.

Feedback From Schools
“Neag School students are some of the most intelligent and hard-working students we have the honor of working with,” says Christopher Wethje ’02 JD, human resources director for East Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools. “They receive an incredible education and present themselves with a maturity and professionalism not often see in other educator preparation programs.”

“We have been fortunate to hire Neag students every year and are consistently impressed with their ability,” he says.

Samuel Galloway ’01 6th Year, director of human resources at Bristol (Conn.) Public Schools, participates in campus visits, during which he shares insights with seniors at the Neag School. “I enjoy sharing information with the students. They are very engaged and ask great questions,” he says. “I am proud to say that I hired Amanda Powell, who is the [2019] Bloomfield Teacher of the Year. She helped me build an outstanding math department at Bloomfield High School.”

“Neag School students are some of the most intelligent and hard-working students we have the honor of working with.”

— Christopher Wethje ’02 JD, human resources director, East Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools

Joseph Macary ’94 (ED), ’08 ELP, ’16 Ed.D, superintendent of Vernon (Conn.) Public Schools, says Neag School graduates “are by far the best prepared students for education in the state of Connecticut,” he says. “The Neag program is rigorous, and the faculty hold students to high standards.”

Dominique Battle-Lawson ’07 (ED), ’08 MA and Mia Hines, academic advisors in the Neag School, greet guests at the Spring 2019 Education Career Fair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)
Dominique Battle-Lawson ’07 (ED), ’08 MA, left, and Mia Hines, academic advisors in the Neag School, greet guests at the Spring 2019 Education Career Fair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

“Our school district has hired dozens of Neag graduates, and we are very pleased with their performance and abilities,” he adds. “Last year, we needed three elementary music teachers, and we hired all of them from UConn – they have shined in their classrooms, and students are enjoying the musical arts thanks to their talents.”

‘Poised, Professional, and Well Prepared’
IB/M students start off the fall semester of their fifth year with a résumé and cover letter writing workshop, according to Mia Hines, an academic advisor in the Neag School’s Teacher Education program. “We coordinate with the UConn Center for Career Development, and their liaison hosts the workshop,” she says. “We don’t want to overwhelm [the students]; we want them to just start thinking about their résumé and cover letter.”

n their master’s year, students are also assigned to a seminar class led by Neag School faculty. The seminar provides a space where students develop their master’s-year inquiry project, engage in ongoing professional learning, and learn about job searching tools and resources that they will ultimately use in the interview process. Recent graduates also return to campus to share their experiences regarding the job search and their first year of teaching.

These opportunities have proven beneficial in preparing students, says Ann Traynor ’05 (ED), ’16 Ed.D., director of advising and certification at the Neag School. School administrators who attend the Neag School’s springtime career fair, she says, “often remark how poised, professional, and well prepared our students are.”

Additionally, many faculty and staff work with students individually on the job search. “For example, David Moss and other faculty members often speak to students who are interested in teaching internationally,” says Traynor. “All of us encourage students to spend sufficient time on reflection, preparation, and stress management during the career search.”

One seminar leader, Professor Todd Campbell, notes how “seriously the Neag School faculty members take the importance of connecting and collaborating with state, district, and school leaders and teachers to focus on continual improvement that not only benefits schools, but also Neag students who take part in shaping innovative work in schools.”

“The Neag School students presented themselves very well at the recruitment fair; they were engaging, passionate, and ready to lead classrooms. The students are ready to teach on day one.”

— Samuel Galloway ’01 6th Year, director of human resource, Bristol (Conn.) Public Schools

Also in their final year in the IB/M program, students attend a workshop on the teacher certification process, run by Traynor, as well as an interviewing workshop, during which local school administrators — some of whom are alumni — are invited to class to work with students on mock job interviews.

“They talk to our students about interviewing and answer all the students’ questions, how should they respond to an offer, how to use their portfolio to talk about what they’ve learned throughout their years in the program,” says Hines. “They’re all worried about if their experience is going to be enough to get a job. That session puts them at ease. The HR representatives usually tell our students, ‘Students in the Neag School are highly sought-after.’”

The last workshop is focused on preparing for the Neag School’s education career fair, which is held each April. This workshop, a collaborative effort with UConn’s Center for Career Development and the Neag School’s Office of Alumni Relations, is led by Hines.

Joseph Macary ’94 (ED), ’08 ELP, ’16 Ed.D, superintendent of Vernon (Conn.) Public Schools, speaks with a student during the Neag School’s Spring 2019 Education Career Fair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)
Joseph Macary ’94 (ED), ’08 ELP, ’16 Ed.D, superintendent of Vernon (Conn.) Public Schools, speaks with a student during the Neag School’s Spring 2019 Education Career Fair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

“We were already working with the Center for Career Development and brought in our alumni relations director, Caitlin Trinh, who shared that alumni were reaching out to her, asking how they could help with students and get involved,” Hines says. “We came up with the idea of having our alumni come back for [a] panel to talk about their experiences.”

Dominique Battle-Lawson ’07 (ED), ’08 MA, another academic advisor and a Neag School grad herself, shares with students her insights on completing the Teacher Education program and then teaching at a school, and works closely with the students as they move through the program.

Wethje, the human resources director from East Hartford, is also brought in to help with the workshop, offering guidance on the online application process that almost every Connecticut school district uses.

He is impressed not only with the students themselves, but also the advisors at the Neag School. “Neag students are incredibly fortunate to have mentorship from Dominique Battle-Lawson and Mia Hines, who prepare students for the challenges of preparing for career fairs, interviews, and general advice about teaching,” he says. “Many educator preparation programs do not offer this type of support, and it is clear that Mia and Dominique’s assistance is what helps set Neag students apart from other educator programs.”

Career Fair – The Big Day
UConn’s Education Career Fair was run by the UConn Center for Career Development from 1996 until 2009, when the Neag School took over. “We have seen the number of participating school districts increase significantly over the past seven years, from 40 districts to a high of 67 districts in 2019,” says Traynor.

After months of preparation, roughly 200 graduating teacher education students have the opportunity each spring to interview with school district representatives for positions in teaching, counseling, and school psychology.

This past April, school districts from across the state packed into the Student Union Ballroom for the annual Education Career Fair, with some districts overflowing into adjoining conference rooms to connect with students. Some students certified in shortage areas — including math, science, and world languages — had job offers before the Career Fair.

During the Career Fair, students interact with school district representatives, and many secure job interviews for later that same day.

“[It] is the largest career fair East Hartford Public Schools attends, and we’re always amazed at the level of preparation we see from students at this event,” says Wethje. “Students represent themselves very professionally, and as a human resources director, I always appreciate the opportunity we have to interview candidates. The quality of programming at Neag is second to none!”

Galloway, of Bristol Public Schools, had similar feedback. “The Neag School students presented themselves very well at the recruitment fair; they were engaging, passionate, and ready to lead classrooms. The students are ready to teach on day one.”

Many graduating students, including Jesús Cortés-Sanchez ’18 (ED, SFA), ’19 MA, say they felt prepared to interact with school district representatives, thanks to the months of preparation and workshops. “Having people like Chris from East Hartford Public Schools and Sam from Bristol Public Schools, providing tips on how to prepare for interviews was so helpful,” says Cortés-Sanchez, who has landed an offer to teach music education in West Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools for this fall.

Jenna Bordieri, an aspiring high school Spanish teacher, says she wanted to get the best experience possible out of the Career Fair. “I had my résumé edited multiple times by my friends and the career services office,” she says. “I created business cards and did research on the districts I wanted to speak with. I also created a list of questions that were important for me … to ask during our conversations.”

The Career Fair, she says, “was an effective and organized way for us to get one-on-one conversations with the school districts before the formal interviews. We were able to get a feel for the administration and ask questions to narrow down our search for the right school. Even if you did not decide to apply for a district, it was a great networking event for us to make connections.”

View photos from this year’s Education Career Fair. Learn more about IB/M at teachered.education.uconn.edu.