Soon-to-be graduates fill teaching vacancies at MDCPS

Mariela Lanz (right), an elementary education major, was the first student to receive and accept a job offer at the Miami-Dade County Public Schools job fair held Nov. 19 at FIU. Here, Lanz chats with her new supervisor, Amrita Prakash, principal of Poinciana Park Elementary.

For roughly 40 seniors majoring in education at FIU, a recent job fair offered them the chance to land their dream job weeks before they’ve graduated.

“It’s very exciting, it’s a dream come true,” said Mariela Lanz, 22, an elementary education major who was the first student to receive and accept a job offer at the hiring fair. “This is always what I’ve wanted to do.”

Principals from 40 of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ (MDCPS) elementary, middle, senior high schools and K-8 centers filled FIU’s Stadium Club on Nov. 19 looking to fill vacancies at their schools.

This hands-on approach was a marked departure from the typical information sessions the school district used to market itself to education graduates.

Instead of helping graduates understand the process for finding teacher vacancies and applying for open positions, district leaders worked with the College of Education to help fill vacancies immediately.

“Our principals are always asking for FIU graduates because they are tried and true,” said Ana Flores, a senior recruiter at MDCPS. “We know teachers are eager to get started and this year we wanted to be more proactive.”

The proactive effort to hire FIU students came about during a meeting with College of Education Dean Delia C. Garcia and Jose L. Dotres, MDCPS’s deputy chief of human capital.

“We agreed we needed to put a plan in place so our student teachers could gain immediate employment with the district,” Garcia said. “We were thinking out of the box as much as possible.”

College of Education Dean Delia C. Garcia meets with Miami-Dade County Public Schools principals during a recent job fair at FIU.

College of Education Dean Delia C. Garcia meets with MDCPS principals during a recent job fair at FIU.

As an added benefit for students who were hired, Garcia said that at the end of the school year, they will be credited for having worked a full year, which will help them accrue benefits and pay raises faster.

Some students like special education major Jorge Iglesias, 22, fielded several job offers from K-8 centers, elementary and middle schools.

“It’s been fantastic,” Iglesias said. “There’s a need for special education teachers and I felt that today. I’m going to take a bit of time to sit back and think about my opportunities.”

Others, like Lanz and Annette Moses signed teaching contracts on the spot.

They were among the many students who completed hiring paperwork on site and will report to their schools in December as temporary instructors. They will officially become full-time teachers in a few weeks, once FIU verifies they have met graduation requirements.

Jorge Iglesias, a special education major, is considering job offers from three MDCPS schools.

Jorge Iglesias, a special education major, fills out MDCPS employment paperwork. He is considering job offers from three principals.

Principals also invited many of their classmates to tour their schools, which could lead to more vacancies being filled.

Moses will teach fourth graders at Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center near Miami’s West Little River neighborhood.

“I feel nervous and excited,” she said. “You want to get in the classroom and you want to do things your way. I know it’s going to be a lot of work but I want to do my best and show that I can do this.”

Lanz will return to nearby Poinciana Park Elementary, where she was wrapping up her student teaching assignment.

“There were two openings and I picked the classroom right next to my internship teacher,” Lanz said. “I chose second grade because they haven’t had a teacher for a couple of weeks already and I felt like they needed someone the most because they need to learn the content most to move on to third grade, which is a crucial year because they’ll be taking the FSA.

“I made my decision based on the children – I always put them first,” she added.

For some principals, extending offers on the spot was an easy decision.

“I don’t need good teachers anymore because I have a lot of good teachers – I need teachers who are extraordinary,” said Amrita Prakash, Poinciana Park Elementary’s school principal. “With FIU graduates, I can almost guarantee success. I always see that they come out of the blocks ready to go. They’re the first ones to know the best strategies that work for my kids, the latest technology and the latest techniques.”

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