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“Hireability” is Front and Center in Education Department

Students talk with education alumni Taylor Bothun ’15 and Jill Deskin ’16 while awaiting their chance to meet one-on-one with a local principal.

In March, Bethel’s Department of Education partnered with the Office of Career Development and Calling to host an event that allowed aspiring teachers to strengthen their job-seeking skills and network with principals from nearby schools—an opportunity that Associate Professor of TESL Sarah Tahtinen-Pacheco dubs “mutually beneficial.”

Because students majoring in sought-after teaching specialties—such as ESL and Spanish education—are in-demand, and because many elementary education openings attract a large amount of applications, Tahtinen-Pacheco says there is steep competition on both sides of the hiring and job seeking processes for teachers. By hosting a networking event at Bethel, she says the education department helped “provide the connection” between students and principals that gave both parties a preview of what’s to come.

“For students, they have the time to talk to an expert in their field about resumes and interviewing—things they will be experiencing very soon. And for the principals—they get to see our top students,” Adjunct Instructor and Elementary Teaching Intern Placement Coordinator Becky Carlson says.

“Top students” from Bethel are highly regarded by local schools. Bethel has recently gained widespread recognition for the excellence of its education programs—with the elementary education program ranking No. 1 in the five-state Midwest on the latest National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Teacher Prep Review. Among the reasons for this success is the support offered to education majors post-graduation—as evidenced by this and other events and alumni programs coordinated by the education department.

Within three years of graduation, Bethel’s Teach Forward program allows students to access and request resources or ideas that could help them prepare lessons. Other resources are available to all program graduates, including the quarterly “Illumination Series,” which offers continuing education credits for licensure, the Bethel education resources webpage, and monthly support groups.

While at Bethel, networking and job seeking events are the top resources to help students prepare for life after graduation. Prior to this most recent event, the education department has held panel discussions, where principals gave interviewing tips and other advice to students. Feedback from those events told education faculty that students would most value one-on-one time with principals to talk about resumes, in conjunction with breakout sessions that they could attend to dive deeper into other facets of job seeking.

This feedback served as the foundation for the March 9 event, which was composed of three elective “courses.” Students rotated between the courses—traveling from room to room in approximately 30-minute intervals. In one course, “Digital Footprints,” Education Department Chair Seann Dikkers helped students determine whether or not the content and photos on their personal social media profiles and online sources could help or hurt their job searches.

Though there are privacy issues that make the practice of looking up teacher candidates on the internet not strictly “legal,” Dikkers says almost all hiring managers in education employ this technique. “You’re talking about a business where you’re entrusted with people’s children,” he says. “One bad hire can cause legal issues for school districts that can cost thousands of dollars. It can also lead to angry parents and a teacher losing respect.”

Associate Director of Career Development and Calling Will O’Brien led a second course, “LinkedIn Profile Checklist.” O’Brien helped students identify their “cupbearers”—using the biblical example in Genesis 40–41 of having someone in your profession who can speak on your behalf and help you make connections. He explained that LinkedIn is a great networking resource and encouraged students to reach out to Bethel alumni to set up informal interviews about their shared field.

The third course—simply titled “Resume Review”—gave students the opportunity to meet individually with one or more local principals and teachers, two of whom were Bethel alumni. These guests reviewed students’ resumes and offered insights into their hiring processes for new teachers. All came from schools that partner with Bethel to provide opportunities for students in a residency and/or student teacher program. “We offer ‘firsts’ to principals who are already partnering with us by opening their schools to our students,” Tahtinen-Pacheco says. “This partnership is just supportive of [our mission]. And they get to know who we are, and who our students are.”

While waiting to talk with the principals, students chatted with Taylor Bothun ’15 and Jill Deskin ’16 who shared their job seeking experiences and new teacher challenges. “The education department taught me how to both anticipate what I need to do in my field, and how to adapt as change comes,” says Bothun. “There’s a little bit of nostalgia [being part of this event]. I remember when I was super ready to go—and everything changes once you get into the field. But you’re still really prepared. I feel like these students are more prepared than I was!”

This event was the first of three that the education department will put on this spring. The second event brought representatives from the National Education Association (NEA) in to talk to students about contracts and unions. The final event will be a discussion on debt and loan forgiveness for teachers. Email Becky Carlson at becky-carlson@bethel.edu for more information. 

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