BY Cheryl Taylor
BROWNSVILLE – The first of day of the Spring Teacher Jobs Expo at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was a blockbuster event.
The influx of 58 school district recruiters on day one of the UTRGV Career Center expo, held in the PlainsCapitol El Gran Salón, Thursday, April 6 on the Brownsville campus, necessitated an overflow onto the Veranda of the Student Union.
“The word is out across the state that UTRGV produces exceptional teachers, and many of them are bilingual certified,” said Juan Andres Rodriguez-Nieto, director of the UTRGV Career Center.
The expo will continue tomorrow, 9 a.m. to noon, in the Fieldhouse on the Edinburg campus.
Brenham Independent School District was attending the expo for the first time, represented by Courtney Mason, principal of Krause Elementary, and Christie Olivarez, Brenham ISD Director of Human Resources.
“This event has been the highlight of our recruiting season,” Olivarez said. “It is obvious UTRGV has a great teacher preparation program. Our conversations with students this morning have been productive; we are impressed with their résumés and pleased to see interest in our district. We would be honored to have prospective hires join our district from résumés we have collected so far.”
Representatives from Humble Independent School District, Dr. Lumara Blanco-Lajara, district ESL coordinator, and Martha Garcia, district bilingual/Spanish immersion specialist, also had high praise for the caliber of students seeking employment.
“Opportunities in Humble are wide open, although we primarily are seeking EC-5 with bilingual certification, grades 6-12 with ESL certification, and teachers of foreign languages, including Spanish, French, Latin, German and American Sign Language,” Garcia said.
Blanco-Lajara said they were impressed with not only the students’ résumés, but also with the candidates themselves.
“They are dressed professionally, they are organized, they express themselves well, and open up about their aspirations to make a positive impact in the classroom,” Blanco-Lajara said.
Humble ISD, they said, offers a very competitive salary and benefits package, and they emphasized the in-house teacher support to all new teachers, with two layers of mentors, one at the school level, and one at the district level.
Rene Rodriguez, director of Human Resources for Houston Gateway Academy, said he brought his two best recruiters – UTRGV alumni Yessica Cano and Kenya Mendoza, both December 2015 UTRGV graduates.
“Houston Gateway starts its new hires as co-teachers for the first semester,” Cano said. “We started as co-teachers in January after graduation, receiving salaries, and that gave us a great start, learning the ropes. And then last August; we both got our own classrooms. I teach fourth grade, and Miss Mendoza teaches third grade.
Mendoza said they both have at least 50 percent English Language Learners (ELL) in their classrooms, and this adds an extra challenge, but they feel properly trained and confident they can handle that responsibility.
“Being situated in southeast Houston, our students come from a lower socioeconomic population,” Mendoza said. “I’m happy to say most of our students’ parents are involved with their children’s education and very supportive of the school.”
“The Spring Teacher Jobs Expo is always a big event, and this year we had 58 school districts from throughout the state,” said Rodriguez-Nieto. “Today, in Brownsville, we had 148 students attend the expo. We expect to have over 200 students tomorrow when the expo moves to the Edinburg campus.”
After spending the morning going from table to table, Ernesto Sanchez left having handed out 22 résumés. The Los Fresnos native, 26, will graduate from the UTeach Program in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
“I have to admit I was nervous this morning, not knowing what to expect,” Sanchez said. “Right away, though, I realized the recruiters were approachable, friendly and made me feel wanted. They explained about their districts and their communities, and I was pleased to hear some of the starting salaries.
Sanchez is certified to teach 7th-12th grade life science. He said he will explore all his options, and after today’s expo, feels confident that he will end up in the right place.
The Spring Teacher Jobs Expo continues tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Fieldhouse (EHPE I) on the Edinburg campus.
For more information, contact the UTRGV Career Center at 956-882-5627 (Brownsville) or 956-665-2245 (Edinburg).