Future teachers forced to diversify resumes
HOUSTON Jobs in teaching have traditionally been plentiful. Normally, students graduating next month would be able to step into a classroom right away and even have options about what school they want to work in. This year is different; the jobs just aren't as plentiful. We wanted to see where the graduates are going and what the alternatives are available to a job market that's shrinking. This isn't what Demetra Gregg thought she'd be doing. A recent TSU graduate, she hoped to be in a classroom, teaching. Instead, she's working on her resume by earning a master's degree. "I'm scared that I won't be able to have a job -- not that I don't have the requirements but because there's just not any money," Gregg said. Gregg's situation is typical of what we found happening to local college graduates. Billions of dollars in state budget cuts to education have meant thousands of local teachers are being laid off. The jobs that used to be so plentiful for graduating teachers just don't exist. "The jobs may not be out there as they used to be, but the more certifications they have, the more training they have, the broader they are in what they offer," TSU education professor Dr. Danita Bailey-Perry said. Be open to out of state hiring, says dr. Perry, and open to teaching alternatives, such charter and private schools. Just down Wheeler Avenue at the UH campus, UH professors say even recent teacher graduates are vulnerable. "I have four in Katy ISD and Katy is really taking a hit financially and they're letting some teachers go and some of the schools have opted to let first- and second-year teachers go," said Dr. Susan Williams, associate professor at the UH College of Education. UH grads are being counseled to do more than drop off a resume. "We've talked to them also about being pragmatic; they might have to take a teacher's aide position for a year and get known at the school," said Melissa Pierson, director of teacher education at UH. That's what Amber Finley is doing. She's a student teacher in the Fort Bend school district. She graduates next month and hasn't been offered a job. Finley and her classmates are nervous, but not giving up. "That's kind of the attitude I'm trying to get toward. If I get something then I'm just happy to have a job because I'm going to be in a classroom teaching kids and that's what matters," Finley said. "I know that is kind of scary that we are losing teachers, but I'm very passionate about this, so if I have to keep looking I will," UH student Izabel Hlayhel said. TSU is planning a teaching summit to help place graduating teachers as well as previous graduates who've been laid off. Meanwhile, both UH and TSU are emphasizing diversity in their student's resumes and a willingness to work outside the public school system.