Chatham County Schools getting ahead of teacher shortage. Career Fair on May 6.

Pittsboro, NC – The nationwide teacher shortage potentially puts educator Orlando Dobbin in the driver’s seat. An intern at Pittsboro Elementary School in Chatham County Schools (CCS), Dobbin is on track to earn a graduate degree in counseling this summer from the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Teacher recruitsSo the wonder is whether the field of education is an employer’s market or a situation more favorable for job seekers.

“That’s a great question,” Dobbin said.

CCS superintendent Dr. Derrick D. Jordan had a succinct answer: “We’ll carry a vacancy all year rather than make a bad hire.”

Jordan recently addressed Dobbin and other college students who’ve been gaining experience in CCS as counselors, teachers, social workers and speech specialists. This school year, 29 interns have been refining their skills in CCS, said Norma Boone, the district’s executive director for teacher induction and Title II services. She organized the gathering of interns, who were joined by administrators from the district.

To get ahead of the teacher shortage, Boone is spearheading a career fair May 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center. Along with recruiting educators, CCS is looking for bus drivers, skilled tradesmen and assistants in school nutrition, among other personnel needs, and this event would be an opportunity to address those areas.

East Carolina University student Olivia Brown said her time interning in teacher Emily Langdon’s kindergarten classroom at Perry Harrison Elementary School may have her calling CCS home.

“They’re a team,” Brown said. “Sharing materials and having each other’s backs.”

Freda Hicks is the principal at Perry Harrison, and it’s a nurturing environment there, where the teachers aren’t bent on trying to outshine each other; it’s about the whole school shining, Brown explained.

“Olivia is mine!” Hicks insisted, in case any of the other CCS principals in the room were silently rehearsing recruiting lines. “Keep your hands off!”

That was playful banter, and her fellow principals were game, using their introductions to the interns as opportunities to plug their particular schools.

“We are always in recruitment mode,” Jordan said.

School systems throughout the country must work that way. It’s because of the teacher shortage. CCS aims to attract teachers with opportunities for $1,000 interest-free loans and tuition reimbursement for both lateral-entry teachers and teachers employed with the school system for at least two years. A teacher seeking National Board Certification would receive support toward that end, Boone said.

Campbell University student Allyson Crook has been interning in teacher Tracey Troxler’s third-grade classroom at Siler City Elementary School, where she said the diversity both demographically and academically among the students has pushed her.

“It’s like a challenge for me to meet all their needs,” Crook said.

Bennett School principal Dan Barnwell said the needs of budding teachers like Crook would be met if they joined CCS.

“We have a great district,” Barnwell said. “You’ll be supported.”

And CCS teachers get paid just as well as they would in other school systems in this state, Northwood High School principal Justin Bartholomew said.