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Education Expo Helps Address Shortage of Teachers in New Jersey

Karly Pratt had a “full-circle moment” as the Stockton University senior walked around the Education Career Expo on March 20.

“My high school principal is here, and it was really strange walking in and seeing someone who I could potentially be interviewing with in the future,” said the sychology major with a concentration in Elementary Education.

The Woodstown native was one of about 100 students who attended the second annual event that brought many of Stockton’s student-teacher partner schools to campus. The expo not only served as a way for students to meet a potential future employer, but it also allowed school districts to get an initial impression of future job candidates.

“The expo was initiated last year in response to the teacher shortage occurring across the state,” said Jennifer Houser, Stockton’s undergraduate fieldwork coordinator in the School of Education. “The aim is to support our partners in their endeavor to recruit the next generation of educators, while simultaneously providing our student-teachers with an opportunity to build their professional network.”

Houser said the event grew dramatically this year as about 20 school districts participated, ranging from Red Bank Regional in Monmouth County to Middle Township in Cape May County and Black Horse Pike Regional in Camden County.

“As we continue to produce excellent teachers, and these teachers are hired further away from our university, our reputation for excellence in education reaches a larger audience,” said Kimberly Dickerson, the interim dean of the School of Education.

Several districts sent superintendents or human resources administrators to offer advice and suggestions in a separate panel discussion where students could ask questions.

“We all need jobs, and these people are offering jobs. It’s that simple, and you really can’t ask for more,” said senior Michael Marcella, an Elementary Education major.

Marcella was especially impressed that the university provided a job fair, of sorts, specifically focused on education.

“A lot of places have generic job fairs, but I will have a teaching degree,” the Lanoka Harbor native said. “I think it benefits to have more intimate fairs like this instead of the large-scale ones with just generic companies. It doesn’t help me if Target is hanging out here.”

The intimacy of the fair allowed for students to get one-on-one experience talking with the administrators that could hire them.

“It’s a more personable experience to look around for jobs,” said senior Isabella Mooney, from Ventnor. “Hearing what the superintendents are looking for in a candidate. Being able to give out your physical resume. I’ve had mock interview questions with a principal at a high school, which is really helpful.”

Irene Ortiz, who graduated in December and hopes to teach visual arts, said she was grateful for the chance to get more information about schools both close to Stockton and outside the immediate area.

“I’ve lived here my entire life, so it’s really cool to see more of what’s out there and to see more job openings because looking them up online is a lot more difficult,” said the Galloway native. “It’s also great to get rid of those jitters of walking into a job interview for the first time.”

But students weren’t the only attendees who benefited from the event, especially as the shortage of teachers in New Jersey has become more of a concern. Peter Koza, the superintendent of the Upper Deerfield Township School District, said the expo was the first time his district had attended any kind of a job fair to meet directly with candidates.

“We’ve always been able to fill our positions, but this has given us more exposure,” he said. “You get to see the interaction of students and see how serious they are in working with education. That first impression goes a long way.”

Those first impressions of Stockton students have been very positive, according to Patrick Magee, the principal of Barnegat High School.

“We’ve seen a lot of really well-rounded students,” said Magee, who graduated from Stockton with an education degree in 2003. “We are looking for those good fits, and it’s great to see a wealth of students who are energetic and passionate about coming into the field. You can see the smiles on their faces and the joy that they are going to bring to the occupation.”