Career Readiness Seminar Boosts Preparation for Teacher-Education Students

University of Arkansas teacher-education students laugh during a panel discussion at last week's Career Readiness Seminar.
Heidi Wells

University of Arkansas teacher-education students laugh during a panel discussion at last week's Career Readiness Seminar.

Helping University of Arkansas students be as prepared as possible for job searches was the motivation for a new Career Readiness Seminar put on last week by a partnership led by the Office of Teacher Education.

"It was a very interactive experience, and I left feeling more confident about obtaining a teaching position in the near future," said Danielle Phillips, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree with a concentration in STEM education.

The Office of Teacher Education collaborated with the Education Renewal Zone, both of which are based in the College of Education and Health Professions; the university's Career Development Center; U of A faculty and students from all teacher-preparation programs; and school districts in Northwest Arkansas where students complete teaching internships.

Faculty members also sat in on sessions held March 8 in the Arkansas Union.

"Hearing from administrators regarding hiring practices and effective interview techniques was one of the most meaningful parts of this event," said Sheri Deaton, a clinical instructor in the family and consumer sciences education program.

District hiring officials routinely attend career fairs on campus specifically designed for teacher-education programs, but the seminar gave them the opportunity to explain what they are looking for to a large group of students at once.

The timing of the career-readiness seminar was perfect, said Roger Hill, assistant superintendent for human resources for Rogers Public Schools.

"From a hiring district perspective, I appreciated the university's initiative to provide this conversation and information to your students so they can be well-prepared for the upcoming applying, interviewing and hiring process," he said.

Hill said he wished he had been provided this opportunity and information during his last semester of college.

"The students were very attentive and asked great questions," he said.

Hill was one of three district officials involved in hiring who spoke at the first panel discussion of the day attended by the group of nearly 200 students. Following that panel on the hiring process - which also featured Larry Ben, superintendent of Greenland Public Schools, and Greg Mones, director of human resources for Fayetteville Public Schools - the students divided into groups by their majors: childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, agriculture education, art education, career and technical education, music education and physical education.

The students attended another panel made up of teachers, principals and other educators that focused on a variety of information they needed to be successful in interviews and in their first year of teaching. Panelists were Stephanie Pinkerton, assistant superintendent of Farmington Public Schools; Bobby Smith, assistant principal of Fayetteville High School; Karen Steen, principal of Heritage High School in Rogers; Jeremy Yates, assistant principal of Bentonville West High School; Marilyn Gilchrist, principal of Bright Field Middle School in Bentonville; Synetra Morris, assistant principal of Root Elementary School in Fayetteville; Katie Stewart, fifth-grade teacher at Elmdale Elementary School in  Springdale; Jared Cleveland, deputy superintendent of Springdale Public Schools; Lisa Morrison, assistant principal of Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville; and Michael Tapee, math teacher at Hellstern Middle School in Springdale. Stewart and Tapee are both U of A graduates in their first year of teaching.

After lunch, the students heard from KayLee Simmons, director of career education at the U of A; Carolyn Chitwood, a career counselor; and Brittany Straw, assistant director of career education. These speakers covered "Interview Success" and "How to Work a Career Fair."

A career fair for teacher education candidates is set for April 6 at the Arkansas Union.

After last year's career fair, staff in the Office for Teacher Education reviewed feedback and decided that an event focusing on preparing students for the application, interview and hiring process would help them feel more confident. Local school districts were instrumental in the planning by providing information as well as serving on the panels to answer students' questions.

The Office of Teacher Education also provides information on the licensure process, facilitates the internship placement program for all teacher-education candidates, organizes undergraduate observation opportunities, coordinates fingerprinting for background checks and maintains partnerships with local school districts.


Heidi S. Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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