INSTITUTE, W.Va. – As public school districts continue to find ways to deal with the state’s teacher shortage, two West Virginia public universities held job fairs last week to give seniors the chance to learn about career opportunities following graduation.
Marshall University held its Educator Expo March 8, and West Virginia State University hosted its Teacher Job Fair on March 9. Some West Virginia school systems participated in the fairs, as well as school districts from other states, including North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky.
State Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano said in February there are currently 718 teacher vacancies across the state, with 330 vacancies being in special education and math.
There is also the issue of teachers moving to other states for better teaching opportunities. West Virginia ranks 46th in teacher pay according to statistics from the National Education Association.
Sarah Maharaj, director of the WVSU Office of Career Services and Co-operative Education, said those subjects were the areas with the least amount of candidates at WVSU’s event.
“A lot of ours are elementary,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj said the WVSU fair usually brings from 50 to 60 students, but that can change depending on the graduating class.
“The candidate pool was 38 students,” she noted.
Tonya Martin, human resource director for Mason County Schools, said her district has opened opportunities in order for non-education majors to become certified teachers.
“We have utilized the Teacher-in-Residence program, where the teacher can do their student teaching in our county and still be paid up to 60 percent of a salary,” she said.
Mason County Schools also have an alternative program that allows people with a college degree to earn a degree in education while teaching.
As for those seniors completing their education studies, the fairs served as opportunities for them to understand and even interview for teaching positions.
Courtney Budd, a University of Charleston senior, said the best people for the job are the ones passionate about wanting to help children learn.
“A lot of people say they could never do it, and it’s true,” she said.
Martin said fairs are not only places where students can earn a job, but also learn how to first apply for a teaching position.
“When students first come out of college, they don’t understand the application and bid sheet process,” Martin said.
Budd, a New Jersey native, said she feels ready to teach in the state she now calls home.
“I just came to love Charleston and West Virginia,” she said. “I love the change.”