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Hawaii News

Job fair unites schools with potential teachers

    Rachel Chantavong

Lindsay Robinson, 26, couldn’t help feeling intimidated while standing in a swarm of job seekers at a teachers recruitment fair yesterday in Salt Lake.

"Nothing can calm your nerves," said Robinson, who will graduate this spring with a master’s in elementary education. She realized a bit too late that the hot black sweater she wore may have been a mistake, but she tried a change in perspective.

"It all starts here," she said, surrounded by principals from several schools interviewing job seekers at the fair at Honolulu Country Club.

More than 300 newly minted teacher candidates flocked to the fair, the first created by the Teacher Education Coordinating Committee in partnership with more than 50 public and private schools across the state. Officials said the event was meant to create an opportunity for local students to connect to local schools and get better teachers into the schools.

Nine educational programs urged their students, about 600 of whom will graduate this year, to attend the job fair.

Some principals hired teachers on the spot, at a time when there are declining job opportunities for teachers in Hawaii.

Kerry Tom, acting assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources at the Department of Education, said applicants have fewer job opportunities in the Department of Education because fewer teachers than normal left during the bad economy. In 2007, about 1,600 teachers were hired to fill teaching vacancies in the state, but that number fell to about 800 last year.

That concerned University of Hawaii graduating senior Renee Fujiwara, 22, who said students were advised to accept jobs at schools outside of urban Honolulu. Town openings are usually filled by more senior teachers.

Xania Cadoy of Kalihi said she hopes her certificate in special education along with her degree in education would attract potential employers. She was looking for a job in Leeward Oahu with some of the more troubled schools.

"The need is there," she said. "I want to go where the need is."

Some students relied on other tools to find a job. Kallen Asao, 22, of Mililani used his networking skills to land a spot at Wheeler Elementary before interviewing at any other school.

He knows the school’s principal, the former vice principal of his alma mater, Mililani High School.

"Super exciting," said Asao, who is student teaching at Lanikai Elementary, but will head to Wheeler in the fall. "First time flying solo."

Prospective teachers weren’t the only ones to benefit from the fair. Debra Knight, principal of Nanaikapono Elementary School in Nanakuli, hired five teachers in less than three hours and felt more energized after meeting the candidates.

Finding tenured teachers willing to relocate has been hard, she said. She was happy with yesterday.

"That’s less coordinating on our part to get all the interviews to happen," she said. "I can sleep now."

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