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Student Teachers Get Tips – and Job Offers – at UH Fair

Posted April 7, 2017 – Roughly 600 aspiring teachers on Friday learned inside tips on job searching and surviving as rookies during a conference and recruiting fair hosted by the University of Houston College of Education.

By the end of the day, several students left with job offers or letters of intent.

“It’s cool to see my classmates sign letters of intent,” said Andrea Cruz, a senior at the UH College of Education, who committed Friday to the Houston Independent School District. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Now we’re all about to go out and make a difference, wherever we end up.”

The biannual conference and job fair is put on by the Houston Area Teacher Center, a cooperative effort of the UH College of Education and roughly three dozen Houston-area school districts.

Student teachers from six local colleges attended the event Friday at UH, and more than 50 school districts from as far away as Denver and Beijing recruited at the job fair.

Andrea Kuhn, an assistant director for professional staffing in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, said the UH College of Education graduates who student-teach in the district are particularly prepared. She applauded the college for requiring a yearlong student teaching experience. Many other colleges call for only a semester.

“We love UH,” said Kuhn, who earned a master’s degree from the College of Education in 1988. “You come back here and see the strength of the program – the kids are amazing. They’re prepared for what we’re doing. The biggest piece for us is differentiated instruction, and they understand that.”

Richard Carranza, superintendent of Houston ISD, attended the job fair to talk to recruits personally.

“It was an honor and pleasure meeting you, Mr. Carranza!” Christine Khuong, a UH College of Education senior, posted on Twitter.

"Welcome to #TeamHISD," Carranza responded.

Khuong signed a letter of intent with HISD and plans to work at an elementary school in the state's largest district.

"I felt so thankful and blessed to be able to make it to that moment - to even sign my name on a paper like that," Khuong said. "I'm really, really thankful for all of my teachers, peers and college professors that helped me get to that moment."

The conference, commonly called HATC, opened with a panel of principals: Mark Grisdale of Katy ISD’s Tompkins High School, Michael McDonough of HISD’s Bellaire High, Michelle Rice of Cy-Fair ISD’s new Hoover Elementary, Raymond Stubblefield of Aldine ISD’s Smith Academy and Kaye Williams of Spring Forest Middle School in Spring Branch ISD.

The experienced educators shared several tips for landing a job interview and then sealing the deal.

“You hate to say it, but networking is huge,” Rice said. “You only have seconds to make a first impression.”

“Smile,” reminded McDonough, a UH alumnus. “Some people underestimate that, or forget to do that.”

Also, he said, “share your story.”

But keep it concise, the principals agreed. Don’t send a binder of information. No need for a fancy folder.

“We’re trying to get a sense of what brings you to the classroom and what’s going to keep you there,” McDonough said. “We’re looking for qualities that are going to help you persevere.”

“If you love kids and if you’re willing to work hard, you can work with me,” Rice added. “Those are two skills I can’t teach.”

Once you land the job, the principals agreed, be prepared for a whirlwind.

“If you’re doing it right it, it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do,” McDonough said.

“Set ambitious goals,” Stubblefield added.

“You’re going to have monumental highs,” Williams said. “You’re going to have lows. … Hang in there.”

“Be coachable,” Grisdale added. “Everybody’s going to make mistakes.”

And when things get stressful? Amber Thompson, the UH College of Education’s associate chair of teacher education, urged the soon-to-be graduates to remember why they wanted to enter the teaching profession. On Twitterverse, it’s called #WhyITeach.

–By Ericka Mellon