How can my wife get a teaching job, or a similar job?
April 19, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Wife cannot get a teaching job. How to increase chances or what alternate career paths?

My wife was a 4th grade teacher in Utah for 1 year, right after grad school. We moved to Portland, OR once we found out she was pregnant to be closer to family. Since then (~3 years) she has tried and tried to get a teaching job and have had no luck. I know the economic climate, especially around education, is insanely crappy right now. She has a Bach. in English, a Masters in Elementary Ed, 1 year Experience, and is more than halfway through her ESL Endorsement. We both search EdZapp regularly (Just in case we miss something) as well as Craigslist. She currently works coaching college students over the phone but it is a far cry from what she really wants to do: Teach. She is ready to just outright quit her job due to some corporate changes but cant due to family, etc. What can we do to try and get her teaching? Any tips on how to get her noticed? I might be biased but I think she is a phenomenal teacher, has the true passion for it, and will gladly go above and beyond more-so than anything else. Do we break from the mold and go directly to principals?

If this dosnt happen, what other jobs can she get that will be close to teaching and possibly might help her get that teaching job? I hate seeing my wife so unhappy and want something as simple as a teaching job but cannot get one.
posted by NotSoSimple to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Start subbing. That's the fastest way to get a teaching job.
posted by SpecialK at 9:15 AM on April 19, 2011 [16 favorites]

A certification in special education could help
posted by tommyD at 9:20 AM on April 19, 2011

Down the valley, teachers often have to start out going far afield, out to the small towns. I know 3 different people who, from Eugene, commuted to Monroe, Lebanon, and Oakridge, respectively, to get in the door, then, after several years and good evals, they got into Eugene, and Springfield schools. A heck of a lot of commute time.

I would suspect that it might be easier to get work in Corbett, Sandy, etc, first.

With respect to SpecialK, I would think that a track record as a "regular" teacher would be more valuable than subbing, unless one is lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
posted by Danf at 9:23 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Schools across the country are letting teachers go, downsizing via attrition, and simply not hiring. If you really want to make this happen, you've got to be willing to move where the jobs are. And they're not in Portland. Oregon is one of about ten states which continues to suffer double-digit unemployment, and the Portland schools are actually cutting back. The city was looking at mid-year budget cuts last year.

It's just not a good time to be looking for an education job in Portland. Additional credentials would certainly help there, but really, it's just a bad time all around. Her being a good teacher doesn't actually matter much, as there are plenty of good teachers looking for work. You really want to make this happen, you're going to need to be willing to be flexible about location, just like everyone else looking for a job these days.
posted by valkyryn at 9:25 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would look at the School Spring website as well.
posted by quodlibet at 9:51 AM on April 19, 2011

Have you tried mailing resume and cover letter to every school within about 45mins of you? My wife did this (in NJ) years ago when she first moved in with me and was looking for a job. It wasnt the same economic climate but it was really hard to get into a school. She eventually got calls for interviews and got a job from it but probabaly sent about 60 resumes and cover letters. This is the time of year when they start interviewing for next school year (at least around here), so it might not be a bad time to try to get on their radar.
posted by Busmick at 9:57 AM on April 19, 2011

Build up some math credentials for the resume, either classes, a masters, or subbing/tutoring experience. Schools always need people with better math. English is probably more important in real life*, but it's not taken as seriously in education, because of the immense difficulties students have with standardized testing in math.

Also, since she seems to be working with children, tutoring companies and other after school programs might be worth checking into as a teaching alternative.

*Disclaimer: This is guess work. I am not involved in real life. I am a math professor.
posted by yeolcoatl at 10:12 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

If she doesn't mind downsizing her pay expectations I would think she would find it fairly easy to get a pre-school job teaching the 4 or 5 year old set. It's definitely not the same as a job in the school system, but she will be impacting kids lives, and you actually can run a curriculum and teach with 4 or 5 year olds.
posted by COD at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2011

First of all: is she certified to teach in public schools in Oregon? That would be the first step, and will open up some options.

Finding a teaching job in Oregon will be *hard* - but not impossible. In fact the charter school I work for is hiring one right now (I have absolutely no say over this sort of thing, so I can't help you in any real capacity, but if you'd like more info on the posting please feel free to memail me).

But the severe budget cuts, etc. are making it REALLY hard here (my charter school is getting a 12% of so budget cut from PPS next year...)

I would say the best thing to do for now is to continue doing some professional development while networking at the same time. Check out things like (all pdx centric) the Right Brain Initiative, the Center for Children's Learning, Young Audiences (if she does any art teaching). I know PPS is in need of ESL teachers, so finish that and start volunteering at community housing centers or Head Start or boys and girls club or something like that, to start and get your foot in the door.

I can probably point you to more resources if you'd like to MeMail me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:26 AM on April 19, 2011

Just adding that it's unfortunately normal to have a difficult time finding work as a teacher in Oregon right now. I have a lot of friends who are teachers there, and it is hard. Springfield just voted to close six schools, not all of them small, either. "Ultimately, the board voted to close Goshen, Mohawk and Camp Creek elementary schools and Springfield Middle School at the end of this school year, and change Walterville School to a K-5 school instead of K-8. Two other elementary schools, Brattain and Moffit, will close the following year."
posted by fraula at 10:53 AM on April 19, 2011

My district (in the Midwest) is always looking for ESL, Special Ed, science, and math teachers. Last year we had a dire shortage of fine arts (that never happens!) but that had to do with program restructuring. So some of it is being in the right place at the right time where there are suddenly a dozen English job openings or whatever.

Subbing is a great way to get a food in the door. Be reliable, on time, and take as many jobs offered as you can. Especially take jobs in low-income schools, which are hard to fill with subs, and where teacher turnover is often fairly high. If she shows she can hack it there as a sub, she'll be on a lot of principals' "want to hire" lists.

"Do we break from the mold and go directly to principals?"

This will depend on district practice and culture. Our principals interview and choose the teachers who will be in their buildings, but they MUST do so through the central office HR department and procedures. We had some principals who were doing "on site" interviewing for jobs where they would fail to post the job as required because they just wanted to hire a friend anyway, would hire someone who wasn't properly credentialed or didn't pass the background check, would manage to improperly respect seniority and get us union-grieved, or similar. When we pushed back on proper procedures, a couple principals started issuing press releases when they hired someone (usually football and basketball coaches) in an attempt to embarrass us into hiring their guy since it was already out there. So we now reject ALL on-site hires and it's a sore subject for us; it's hard for us to take seriously a hiring proposal that doesn't come through the proper channels because the other process has been so abused. But it's very common in other places for a principal to say, "You're perfect for this spot, I'll submit your resume" or whatever.

Which is to say that I, personally, think you're better off going through whatever the posted hiring procedures are. But I would certainly make myself known to principals via schmoozing and ESPECIALLY via subbing, and I'd certainly let them know I had my application in for a FT position with that particular district.

It's a crappy market, though. I wish her good luck.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:57 AM on April 19, 2011

If she speaks Spanish and does art teaching, or any kind of creative teaching, she would probably be a welcome volunteer at The Giving Tree or P:EAR, both of which work with kids/youth for some of their programing, and might provide some local networking opportunities.

Though, nthing everyone, all the local school districts in Oregon are facing cuts, and it's not a good time to find a job. On the flip side, all the school districts and community-based organizations are facing cuts, and if she has time to volunteer (even a little), there are probably tons of organizations who will be very, very grateful to have a quality teacher help close some of the gaps that funding cuts will (continue to) leave.
posted by Kpele at 11:05 AM on April 19, 2011

Two of my friends (NJ) got teaching jobs because they covered for teachers on maternity leave that decided after having the baby to be SAHMs.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:39 AM on April 19, 2011

Americorps was recently recruiting at my uni. It's a full year if volunteering at povertized schools in your area, but they told me that many teachers are hired through Americorps. I can't say if this is true or not, as I haven't worked with them, but it might be worth looking into.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 12:52 PM on April 19, 2011

I would think that a track record as a "regular" teacher would be more valuable than subbing

Danf: Teaching experience, period, is more valuable than nothing at all. I second that she should start subbing- I'm not in Oregon, but I have a few friends who've gotten jobs based on long-term sub positions, or work 4-5 days a week as a sub at the same school, which is a really good way to get an actual position.
posted by kro at 1:15 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Danf: Teaching experience, period, is more valuable than nothing at all. I second that she should start subbing- I'm not in Oregon, but I have a few friends who've gotten jobs based on long-term sub positions, or work 4-5 days a week as a sub at the same school, which is a really good way to get an actual position.

Point taken. . .Although my experience, in the school district that employs me, is that people on the sub list hardly ever end up with regular teaching gigs, for whatever reason. Even people who land long-term assignments.

This school district's new hiring tends to skew just-out-of-college.

It also does not seem just.
posted by Danf at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2011

I empathize. The first job interview for a teaching position I got out here in Southern California was prefaced with a "Well, you moved to California at a bad time" (I didn't get it.) Following that especially disheartening interview I decided to try a different route and go into tutoring, starting with SAT prep at a learning center and branching into private lessons, which I'm still doing. It works out decently in the money department, but more importantly I've made some great contacts. With her well-rounded skill set, it sounds like your wife might be able to establish herself as a similar freelance "gun for hire," giving lessons to in a wide berth of subjects to a wide range of students.
There are drawbacks- you'll never be full time and there's no benefits- but the pay in private practice is lucrative (where I live you can charge 40 to 50 bucks an hour without batting an eye) and most importantly you'll meet other teachers who can help you find work. I'm up for a full-time summer writing program, for instance, which I heard about through a teacher who works at the same tutoring center where I teach an after-school writing workshop.
Personally it worked for me to get out there and tutor. Initially it sucks- you have to put up flyers at Panera or wherever the parents hang out, and take the after school jobs you can get, and writing centers and learning annexes aren't the most stimulating environment- but tutoring does get you our there, teaching and meeting people. And it feels so much more productive than mailing off another resume.
posted by joechip at 1:42 PM on April 19, 2011

I'm not a teacher but I have a number of friends who are trained as such. All five of them got their positions from subbing. It allows for building a rapport with a school, staying in the loop, having local references, etc. It took a year or two of subbing to get the contract but from what I understand that is just how it works.
posted by gwenlister at 1:44 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If Portland is anything like Austin, there are pretty much no teaching jobs whatsoever in the city. New grads have to go to districts in outlying areas (upwards of an hour from the city center) to get jobs.
I'm not sure how teachers' salaries work, but it might also be that having a masters and experience means districts have to pay her more, so she's not as appealing as a hire.
posted by elpea at 6:19 PM on April 19, 2011

You can look at private school recruiters like this one. Caveat: you will make less and work longer (yes, longer) hours in a private school. You'll probably be asked to coach something or do the yearbook as well with no extra pay.

(I had a decidely mixed experience with CS Associates but they're easy enough to contact and talk to at no charge.)

That said, the best way to approach private schools is to simply send them your resume and cover letter. Who knows, somebody may be having a kid, moving to Africa, or getting fired. Get yourself on file with them.
posted by bardic at 11:47 PM on April 19, 2011

She needs to sub regularly either in Beaverton or David Douglas.

The one teacher I know in Portland Public had 10+ years of experience when she moved from Beaverton (and had taught in California for quite a few years prior to that), an ESL endorsement, and a Reading Endorsement. She spent at least the first four years fighting to keep her job at the end of every school year. Portland Public is shrinking, Beaverton and David Douglas are growing...
posted by togdon at 9:42 AM on April 21, 2011

This is probably obvious, but has she looked in districts in Vancouver, WA and surrounding areas?
posted by annie o at 6:36 PM on April 24, 2011

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