Lopes Leap to Teach links students with schools aiming to hire
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
As soon as recent Grand Canyon University graduate Halezka Mullenbach was greeted by one Arizona school administrator Thursday at the Lopes Leap to Teach job fair, another appeared out of nowhere to whisk her off for an instantaneous interview for an open first-grade position.
Walking through the lines of public, private and charter schools, all eager to fill vacancies in their personnel ranks in the midst of Arizona’s teacher shortage, GCU students found it easy to connect with prospective employers.
Mullenbach, a 21-year-old dual major in early childhood education and Christian studies, is wrapping up her student-teaching placement at Scottsdale Christian Academy before completing her certification and continuing to apply for jobs. Wearing a professional suit and confident smile, she clearly was attracting interest among principals and administrators with her eagerness to learn about teaching opportunities in a range of schools.
She thought she was late to the game since many of her peers already have been snatched up by schools. But she proved herself wrong at the event, which drew dozens of job-hunting students and school officials for the third and final fair of its kind this year.
“Everyone’s really been very helpful, encouraging with helpful tips and about to do better — and they really appreciate my honesty,” Mullenbach said.
The event was set up on the outdoor areas by the entrances to the College of Theology and the Learning Lounge. COE leaders established the event as a recurring way for students and schools to connect on campus and address the statewide hiring issues in education.
Rafael Sanchez, principal of Gadsden Elementary School, had chatted with Mullenbach and a handful of other students during the busy afternoon fair. Sanchez said there are 40 vacancies heading into the 2015-16 school year among the 212 teaching jobs in the 5,370-student district — a common problem in Arizona, especially in its rural schools.
Gadsden is in San Luis, Ariz., less than one mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border and about 30 miles from Yuma. Some teacher candidates shy away from such a remote location even though highly diverse campuses such as Gadsden tend to create strong professionals who are equipped for future classroom challenges.
“The advantage is there’s a tremendous amount of teacher support and development,” Sanchez said. “The biggest things I’m looking for are character, work ethic and responsibility. With those building blocks in place, you can build a great teacher.”
Some estimates by Arizona education authorities suggest there are as many as 500 vacant teaching positions statewide. Other reports have shown fewer qualified math and science teachers in some communities.
But not everyone is shying away from low starting salaries and often stigmatized classrooms where many students are challenged by tough home environments, language barriers and the stress to succeed amid learning disabilities or behavioral issues, or they simply don’t have a teacher who intellectually motivates them.
Some teachers just feel as if it’s a calling to step in and put their heart to work.
The College of Education had emailed Lopes Leap to Teach invites to a range of students, including Laura Tranovich of Reading, Pa. After years of putting her bachelor’s degree in psychology to use working with special needs people, the mother of five children told herself she wanted a master’s in education so she could work toward a teaching certification.
So she jumped on a plane and headed to Phoenix. And the trip was well worth her first jaunt to the desert, considering all the job leads and information she pulled from the quick pass-through.
“I just love children too much,” Tranovich said. “Special education is definitely the calling for me. (The job fair) is very helpful. Even though I’m not coming in with a certification, everyone’s been very nice.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 602-639-7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.