Teacher recruiting practices prove successful
Teacher recruiting practices prove successful
Posted on 10/07/2016
Teacher recruiting practices prove successful

Teachers Jeff Keller, Sara Meade, and Lauren Park have something in common with 153 other teachers in the Puyallup School District. They are the 156 newly hired teachers for the 2016-17 school year.

Ten of the teachers were hired after school started on September 6. The 10 classes were added to accommodate enrollment growth — which far exceeded the district’s projections.

Substantial housing and population growth throughout the Puyallup School District have increased student enrollment significantly. Projections show almost 1,500 additional students added to this growth by 2021.

State objectives to reduce class size in grades K-3 require additional teachers and staff. The state goals limit class sizes to 17 students per classroom in grades K-3 beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

As the economy has improved, a significant number of employees have retired. The population growth and employee attrition and retirement have resulted in 45 percent of staff who are new to the district within the last three years.

Staffing needs and competition to hire the best qualified teachers have increased dramatically across the state recently. As a result, the district has taken a new approach to recruiting and hiring practices which is proving a successful way to identify, encourage, and hire strong candidates.

Chief Human Resources Officer Amie Brandmire said, “We have very skilled people within our community and that has become our recruiting pool. We’ve tried to strengthen the paraeducator-to-teacher pipeline that provides a pathway for candidates to earn a teaching certificate. We are going after those career changers and the stay home moms who are ready to reenter the workforce. Some already have had successful careers yet want to give back in some way — we are creating a pathway to become a teacher.”

The district has formed partnerships with Pacific Lutheran University, Pierce College, and Northwest Educational Development to create non-traditional routes to teacher certification. Upon completion of the courses the graduates receive the appropriate certificate issued through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

As a leader in the effort to redesign recruiting methods, Ailene Baxter, director of human resources staffing and school support, has worked with multiple agencies to address critical shortage areas, provide a variety of options that are flexible, affordable, and help prospective teachers apply new skills in a practical manner. ”Our partnership agreements provide the opportunity for us to think and act differently in ‘growing our own’ teachers, in developing high-quality teachers in the district through leadership and mentoring, and to have a significant impact on serving students in our community,” said Baxter.

“It is about eliminating access barriers and providing alternative routes to earn a teaching certificate. We’re not lowering our standards of what we expect for good quality people in Puyallup. We still expect excellence to support our kids, and we take that responsibility seriously,” said Brandmire.

Teachers Lauren Park and Sara Meade are currently enrolled in the Northwest Educational Development program. They are working through the program modules while working in an intensive coaching and mentoring setting.  

Meade, who teaches fifth-grade students at Edgerton, was a long-term emergency substitute at Brouillet Elementary last year. She also spent time in another district as a substitute teaching sixth grade science and social studies. “I live here and my children are coming up through Puyallup schools. I really enjoy the people that I meet in all areas of our district. It’s really nice to see a district that stands together and works toward the same goals,” she said.

"It’s really nice to see a district that stands
together and works toward the same goals."
Sara Meade

Park is a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science, Chemical Engineering degree and she graduated from the University of Washington with Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and botany. She was looking for a career change while volunteering as a Brouillet parent where staff encouraged her to pursue a career in education. She was hired as a paraeducator last year at Walker High School. The staff at Walker encouraged her to become a teacher and recognized her natural talent as an educator. She teaches algebra and geometry at Walker.

Park also praised the district for removing barriers and recruiting from internal talent. “For me, what really stood out is the support from the district, human resources, and staff at my school. What the Puyallup School District is doing for paraeducators like me is an awesome way to solve the teacher shortage,” said Park.

Other changes to district recruiting methods focus on identifying and contacting candidates earlier, mentoring and hiring from the pool of student teachers that come through Puyallup, and seeking out and providing opportunities for strong candidates within the Puyallup community and schools.

Recruiting efforts begin earlier in the spring. The district is proactive with early budget planning which allows hiring teams to understand staffing needs and secure talented candidates before they pursue other opportunities.

Another way to ensure excellence is in continuing professional development after teachers are hired. Brandmire said district leadership has a collective responsibility to make sure the new teachers are successful. There are intentional supports put in place tied to student learning, current staff experience, and ongoing training and development.

Pope Elementary fourth-grade teacher Jeff Keller was a children’s pastor for 23 years. He knew that he enjoyed working with people and he loved to teach. Living in Southern California, he went back to school at Azusa Pacific University to earn his master’s in education. He has his teaching credentials in general education with an endorsement in science. Keller admits that Bill Nye the Science Guy is his inspiration.

Keller photo

As he began to look for a teaching job he had ties to the Pacific Northwest – his wife works out of SeaTac and his brother and sister-in-law live in Puyallup. He attended a recruiting event at the Tacoma Dome last spring. After interviewing with various districts, he was about to leave at the end of the day when he and his brother walked by a booth that was closing up. His brother said, “There’s the Puyallup booth - where my kids go to school.”

Ailene Baxter was packing up after a long day of recruiting when she met Jeff Keller. She took the time to sit down and talk to him and invited him to come to her office for an interview. He went home to California then flew back to interview with Baxter and a panel that included principals. To his surprise during the interview Superintendent Tim Yeomans also stopped in to meet him.

Keller echoed the same message that teachers Park and Meade shared when he said, “I am not looking for a job, I am looking for a home where I am a good fit and can make a positive impact in the community.”

Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us