The Buzzard atrium filled with many school districts and education students for the annual Small and Rural Informal Night that gives students a chance to network for job opportunities ahead of the education job fair.
Doug Bower, the dean of College of Education, said every semester they host this event for students to network two weeks prior to the regular education job fair.
Bower said in this informal night students get the opportunities to work in the field for the next upcoming school year.
He said Aaron Lock, the Carl Sandburg Elementary School principal, said he is talking to students who may want to student teach in his building.
Bower said they invite districts from small rural communities from within a 100-mile radius to meet prospective teacher education candidates.
“That’s the number one shortage area in the state of Illinois is our small rural schools,” Bower said. “So, what it does, is gives (administrators) an opportunity to meet freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.”
Victoria McDonald, principal of Robinson High School, said she encourages students ahead of applying to education positions to know what community they want to work in.
She said students applying in those areas need to know they will become part of that community and they will want to make sure the place will be a great fit for them.
“When they are dressed down or after an interview (they should) visit a gas station or a Wal-Mart or a Dollar General,” McDonald said. “Don’t announce that you are applying for an education job but just ask about the community, ask about the school, because that is what will get you the most honest answers.”
Bower said most of the districts in attendance were K-12 districts, and each of the districts’ tables had an administrator or someone to inform students about opportunities for special education or for high school or elementary.
Ted Walk, superintendent of Sullivan High School, said at his school, one of the highest percentages of teachers who work there come from Eastern.
Walk said they have a ratio of about 80 percent of their teachers being graduates from Eastern, including himself.
He said some advice he gives to students who become teachers is to look into education of high-need areas and something they want to do.
“The very first thing I would say is be passionate about what you are doing. Education is difficult, but it’s the most rewarding experience that you are going to have,” Walk said.
McDonald is also an Eastern alumnus and said the education program does an excellent job at getting students to go out to school and practice or observe a classroom, which she advises students to do.
“If you have down time any time during the week, go see if you can get involved and see what a real day to day looks like,” McDonald said.
Bower said between 50 and 60 students come into the informal, but because students come out late of class, it will be around 86 students who will show by the end.
He said in the regular education job fair there are 130 districts from across the country, but rural districts enjoy coming more to this informal.
Valentina Vargas can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]