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Vail Daily column: Finding talented teachers

Jason E. Glass
Valley Voices

Last week, I wrote about the importance of talent in building a great educator workforce and that perhaps the most important thing any organization can do to build up its human capital is to hire well.

The quality of the teacher matters a great deal. While we know that the greatest influencers of student success are their community, family and environmental factors, teachers are the most powerful in-school factor for improving outcomes.

Toward that end, we’ve worked to not only extend our recruiting efforts to top Colorado universities, other states and even other countries, we are also working to build up efforts right here in Eagle County.

We believe that if we can cultivate great teachers from within our geography, they will not only be deeply connected to the community but also be uniquely positioned to share their passion for our area with the next generation of students. Each summer and during school and college breaks, we seek out some of our own students and recent graduates who have expressed an interest in teaching and offer them experiential learning opportunities within our schools. Providing real-world experience as a summer school paraprofessional, school office staff support or district office exposure helps these students gain applicable experience to take back to their classroom studies. Several of our very best teachers are working at the very schools they attended as children. This commitment to seeding, nurturing and recruiting home-grown talent is something we know is good for our schools and students.

A few years ago, when I served as the director of human resources for Eagle County Schools, I’d regularly meet with other personnel directors from districts in our region. Some part of our conversation was always around the difficulty of recruiting educators to work in our mountain communities, due primarily to cost of living issues.

While it is certainly a challenge, I had a hard time believing that a place like Eagle County, with the abundant quality of life our community offers, would have a hard time recruiting. Sarah (my wife) and I thought Eagle County was an absolute paradise, and we were willing to trade square feet for square miles of jaw-dropping natural beauty to make this place our home.

I knew there must be a niche of talented education professionals who felt the same way about living here that Sarah and I did — people who wanted to be here and who were attracted to all that our community had to offer.

In response to this challenge, the Rocky Mountain Teacher Fair was launched in 2009 by Eagle County Schools along with several participating school districts from across the mountain region. The annual springtime event, held at Battle Mountain High School, typically brings 150 to 200 teacher candidates to Eagle County to meet and interview with 10 to 15 school districts, charter schools and private schools.

The magic of the Rocky Mountain Teacher Fair is that we know, with a fair degree of certainty, that the teacher candidates who attend will be well suited to the Colorado mountain lifestyle because they have self-selected by attending the fair.

Many of these candidates are from the Front Range or other states — and it takes a certain level of commitment to make your way to Eagle County and give up a Saturday in April … especially when the ski resorts are still open!

The Rocky Mountain Teacher Fair combined with our aggressive “out of the area” efforts to secure top talent for Eagle County Schools is obliterating the myth that you can’t recruit great teachers who are willing to live in a mountain community. During the past two years, we’ve enjoyed a 70 percent increase in the number of qualified applicants for teaching jobs in our district alone. The magic is working.

Having a steadily increasing pool of qualified applications means more talent and more options for our principals and selection teams at hiring time. It means we can implement a highly selective professional criterion that includes graduate degrees from the most selective programs, professional teaching experience, subject-level specializations and superior bi-lingual teaching skills. Eagle County’s kids and community deserve a caring, passionate, dedicated, professional educator in every one of our classrooms. More than just a goal or an aspiration, we’re making that vision a reality.

For more information or to register for the Rocky Mountain Teacher Fair, go to http://www.rockyteacherfair.org.

Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at jason.glass@eagleschools.net.


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