Home News Teacher candidates make grade at IUN job fair – Chicago Tribune

Teacher candidates make grade at IUN job fair – Chicago Tribune

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Prospective teacher Vincent Passero-Noska asked potential employers as many questions as they asked him Friday.

The Indiana State University senior, who just finished student teaching at Lake Central High School, talked with school representatives from Lake and Porter counties at Indiana University Northwest’s teacher recruitment fair, sponsored by its School of Education.

Officials from 20 local schools and school districts stood at tables inside the Savannah Center and greeted job prospects.

Highland resident Kaitlyn Pecoski, on right, shakes hands with Highland High School principal John Zack during the Indiana University School of Education's seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Highland resident Kaitlyn Pecoski, on right, shakes hands with Highland High School principal John Zack during the Indiana University School of Education’s seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

Although he lives in Orland Park, Ill., Passero-Noska said he’s eager to teach in Indiana.

“I’ve talked with everyone here. I want to find a group that prioritizes support for staff and prioritizes discipline,” he said. “I ask about all their policies.”

New teachers can afford to be a little picky. The Indiana Department of Education has about 1,800 teacher vacancies on its job board.

Valparaiso High School principal Veronica Tobon speaks with prospective teacher Atinuke Bada, of Hobart, during the Indiana University School of Education's seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Valparaiso High School principal Veronica Tobon speaks with prospective teacher Atinuke Bada, of Hobart, during the Indiana University School of Education’s seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

Marnita Taylor, executive director of curriculum and instruction at the Merrillville Community School Corp., said the district has 20 openings for 2024-25.

She had already accepted about 25 resumes. “They’re from all different areas and we’re excited to have them,” she said of the range of disciplines the applicants included.

“I’m not worried at all. This is a very good turnout,” Taylor said.

Next year, Merrillville will oversee its own special education program after leaving the Northwest Indiana Special Education Cooperative.

Knox Middle School principal Jim Condon, on left, speaks with prospective teacher Grace Hammons, of St. John, during the Indiana University School of Education's seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Knox Middle School principal Jim Condon, on left, speaks with prospective teacher Grace Hammons, of St. John, during the Indiana University School of Education’s seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

“It will allow for more specialized attention,” said Denona Pryor, director of Merrillville’s special education department. “It was important to bring special education under the same banner.”

Nearby, Highland High Principal John Zack and Kelly Gossman, guidance director, talked with students for the first time.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Zack. “It’s nice to meet with them.”

Hobart resident Atinuke Bada, who is seeking a math teaching position, on right, speaks with Gary Community School Corporation benefit specialist Shante Ivy during the Indiana University School of Education's seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Hobart resident Atinuke Bada, who is seeking a math teaching position, on right, speaks with Gary Community School Corporation benefit specialist Shante Ivy during the Indiana University School of Education’s seventh-annual Teacher Recruitment Fair on April 5, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

He said the high school needs about four or five new teachers.

Zack said he’s worried about trends showing fewer education major graduates. He said Valparaiso University’s education program has about 22.

“We’re a small district with only six buildings. I’m always cautiously optimistic,” he said.

Michelle Coughlin, director of student teaching and field placement at IUN’s School of Education, said there are 29 spring education graduates.

“That makes me optimistic in general, but I know we’ll still struggle,” said Coughlin, a former principal at Iddings Elementary in Merrillville.

Jean Sienkowski, principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Valparaiso, and Parkview Elementary Principal Mike Rayson welcomed new teaching candidates and said the Valparaiso Community Schools have been fortunate with teacher retention.

Rayson said Valparaiso has a districtwide teacher mentor program with instructional coaches supporting new teachers as they navigate their early months on the job.

“It’s a sound approach and they share techniques,” he said.

Sienkowski said the district just needs a couple teachers at each school.

“They are asking more questions,” she said of the candidates they met.

Kaitlyn Pecoski, of Highland, said she’s graduating next month from IUN with a dual license in elementary and special education.

“I always wanted to do special education and this is an all-in-one degree,” she said. “My brother was in special education so I have a family view of it, too.”

Pecoski said she’s looking forward to being in her own classroom in August.

“I’m very happy, I love what I do,” she said.

Meanwhile, a report from the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board showed an increase in teacher salaries, but the state still is behind neighboring states in average salaries.

Last year, the average teacher salary in Indiana was $58,531, up from about $57,000 the previous year.

The report said more than 31,000 full-time teachers earned more than the state average and about 32,000 were below it.

State law requires a minimum teacher salary of $40,000.

The National Education Association ranks Indiana 39th in teacher salary.

Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.



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