Annual Education Days brings students, employers together

By Becky St. Clair on February 9, 2018

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What happens when you combine 13 teacher candidates, a room full of potential employers, and food? Jobs happen, that’s what. On Feb. 5-6, seniors in the department of education at Pacific Union College were given the opportunity to dine and visit with both Adventist conference and public school education superintendents and principals from across Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. It was the annual Education Days at PUC, which has been taking place for over a dozen years, and by all accounts it was a smashing success.

“We do everything possible to get these students jobs when they graduate,” says Debra Murphy, field services and TPA coordinator for the department. “Personal contact is so important. These days employers aren’t just looking at credentials; they’re also looking at personality to determine how well a potential employee will fit into the culture of the environment in which they’ll be working.”

The event began with a Dr. Seuss-themed dinner on Monday evening, with seating assigned based on students’ interest in particular geographic locations, so they can visit with representatives from their desired area. Students greet and seat the principals and superintendents, so from the very beginning of the event they have a chance for one-on-one interaction.

During the banquet, all teacher candidates are introduced from the front of the room, and booklets outlining each student’s qualifications and experience are provided to each employer.

“It’s a chance for the students and employers to get to know each other,” says Murphy. “Kind of like a casual group interview, over dinner.”

During the dinner, each teacher candidate spent 2-3 minutes speaking on the topic of, “Before I was a teacher, I thought ________. But now I know _______.”

“Before I was a teacher, I thought the world of education had the potential to be like hiking the same trail over and over,” said Abby Everett. “Now I know it’s more like an intricate network of trails with new vistas at every turn.”

“Before I was a teacher, I thought teaching just meant knowing a whole bunch of stuff and being able to tell it to people,” Katie Schlotthauer shared. “But now I know good teaching requires not only knowledge, but also compassion, flexibility, patience, and a whole lot of other things.”

“Before I was a teacher, I thought teaching was all about having complete control of students’ actions and behavior,” said Jose Ungson. “Now I know it’s all about building relationships with students to create a successful classroom. It’s not so much about what I can do, but what I, the students, administration, and parents can do together to help the students succeed.”

Conference and union directors also had a chance to introduce their teams in attendance, as well as address the teacher candidates.

“This event is a highlight for us as professional educators,” said Berit von Pohle, director of education for the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “We realize that the impact educators have on children will never stop, and we know you, the next generation of influencers, will take our place confidently and competently.”

On Tuesday morning, PUC’s department of education hosted a business meeting where all educator representatives gathered to discuss and review updated regulations, requirements, and mandates from the State of California, as well as any changes in PUC’s education curriculum.

“California has the most rigorous process for certifying teachers,” Murphy explains. “Once you take the usual certification test, which itself is incredibly strenuous, you have to take the California-specific exam. If you’re certified in California, you can go pretty much anywhere in the country and teach, since requirements here are so stringent.”

A job fair on Tuesday, operated as a speed dating event, gives students 10-12 minutes for a quick interview with each potential employer at their booth and the chance to set up a more extensive meeting at a later time. Students are encouraged to bring their resumes.

“There is always a positive response on the quality of the students we have, and nearly everyone gets hired as a result of this event,” says Murphy. “Many Napa Valley schools have PUC grads working for them, and several of our alumni are teaching in Calistoga, just 20 minutes away. And even if an employer doesn’t have an immediate opening, they may have one next year, and they’ll contact me and ask about specific students they met during Education Days.”

“I am happy to say that reports we receive from the field tell us that our graduates are well-prepared for their work,” says Tom Lee, chair of the department of education. “Education Days give us a chance to proudly show off our teacher candidates and put them in direct contact with those who will continue them on their trajectory of success.”