By Eddie Diaz, Perry High School History Department
Educating students is more than just a job for passionate teachers. It’s a way of life. This past weekend, part of the recruitment team for the Perry Community School District expressed that passion when they traveled to Cedar Falls to the University of Northern Iowa’s renowned teacher fair.
The recruitment team was made up of seven Perry teachers: Kevin Vidergar, Adam Bloom, T. .J. Maylum, Eddie Diaz, Carla Wood, Kim Peterson and Brandon Weeks. Additional support came from school administrators and several partners in the local business community, the Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce, Ashley Platt from Nevitt Realty and the Saemisch Re/Max Realty team.
The idea for the recruitment team was hatched this fall from discussions between teachers and administrators on effective strategies to recruit and retain high-quality educators for the Perry school district. The teachers in the district responded affirmatively when asked to volunteer, and the team grew from the goal of having three members to eventually reaching seven educators.
A group of teachers led the initiative and spent hours developing recruitment material, traveling to meetings with prospective teachers and identifying the highest-quality candidates to refer to the hiring administrators.
T.J. Maylum, one of the recruitment team’s members, was asked why he decided to volunteer his time and stated that “there are so many high quality teaching candidates out there who just don’t know about Perry. I wanted to let them know about our school and why they should teach with us. In sports, any good team does not wait for good players to join the team, they go out and recruit them.”
The UNI teacher fair was the second teacher fair attended by the team this hiring season and ended in similar success. The fair attracts school districts from around Iowa and across the country and is attended by newly minted teachers and veteran teachers looking for jobs. The Perry team’s table was flanked by a school district from southwest Minnesota and one from Glendale, Ariz.
Human resource specialists worked the booths for districts from Nevada, Alaska, Texas, and Illinois, and candidates mingled with superintendents and principals from Waterloo, Bettendorf, West Des Moines, Saydel and others Iowa school districts. But few if any of the more than 40 districts attending consisted of teacher teams.
Borrowing from the current recruitment model used in professional basketball, in which NBA players recruit their fellow star players, Perry decided to recruit new teachers with its actual teachers. Team members had conversations with more than 55 prospective candidates in the morning and scheduled follow up interviews with the top nine in the afternoon.
The Perry teachers interviewed the candidates, shared the top reasons they should join our education team and answered any questions the candidates had about Perry and the school system. Upon returning to the school district, the recruitment team shared their thoughts with administrators who will then decide which candidates fit their particular building’s needs and schedule them for a second interview.
The long-term impact of the team’s effort will take time to be materialize, but early indications are that the team has found a gold mine.
Among the candidates interviewed were two experienced teachers, from California and Texas, who were looking to move back home to Iowa and expressed an eagerness to teach in Perry. These professionals had a combined 21 years of experience, and their resumes were laced with teaching awards, leadership experience and evidence of effective teaching.
One of them later wrote to the team and said, “I appreciate the time you took to highlight the benefits of living and working in the community of Perry, as well as the questions I had about your school district. My enthusiasm for the position has been strengthened considerably as a result of my interview with you.”
The other candidates bring a unique set of skills and background that makes it likely they can be successful teachers in Perry. One is a former college baseball player from small-town Iowa with a strong math background, a confident aura of professionalism and a desire to teach in a small town.
Another is a German émigré whose passion for teaching her own young children how to read has validated her decision to switch careers and join the teaching profession. A third is a child of Mexican immigrants who chose the teaching profession because she remembered the impact some of the best teachers in her life had on her education, and she wants to do the same for others.
Another is big city Iowa girl (yes, Iowa does have “big” cities) whose passion for science has led her to co-write an article for the Journal of Chemical Education, become the president of the American Chemical Society at her school and attain her school’s academic achievement list–and all the while being a collegiate athlete.
It is likely that Perry will not get all of the candidates we have recruited at the Heartland Fair in Johnston earlier this year and the UNI fair, but it is true that the recruitment team’s effort has increased the pool of highly qualified and passionate teaching candidates applying to Perry Community School District. Special thanks is due the administrative team for believing in their teachers’ ability to recruit and advocate for the school district.