Soon-to-be teachers from Florida SouthWestern State College feel ready for classroom

Soon-to-be graduates of Florida SouthWestern State College’s School of Education feel ready for…

Soon-to-be teachers from Florida SouthWestern State College feel ready for classroom 1

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FSW School of Education hosts teacher job fair

The FSW School of Education hosted a teacher job fair for its upcoming graduates on Friday, March 26, 2021, in Fort Myers.

Amanda Inscore, Fort Myers News-Press

Angelica Georges knows the trauma of the sudden shift from in-person classes to remote, distant learning.

This time last year, the 22-year-old from Naples was a junior in the School of Education at Florida SouthWestern State College, where she attended in-person classes at the Lee County campus.

“And then boom,” she said, recalling how a statewide effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus shuttered campuses and forced teachers and students of all ages into online work.

“Remember when we came back from spring break, we never really came back,” she said. “And that’s what the kids experienced, too.”

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The experience reinvigorated her drive to become a classroom teacher so she could work with children and help them navigate the difficulties of pandemic life.

“I definitely feel that I can do more,” Georges said, adding that she is constantly asking herself how she can help kids.

“What can I do to help them understand that right now it’s a hard time, but we’re still going to learn, I’m still here and let’s do this together?” she said.

On Friday, she and 43 of her fellow education school seniors got a little closer to doing just that by interviewing for jobs in an in-person job fair.

The event, which is held twice a year for soon-to-be teachers, enables upcoming graduates to speak with representatives of public, private and charter schools from the five-county area and beyond.

FSW seniors participating in the job fair have already passed their state exam and carry certificates in reading and ESOL, which stands for English to Speakers of Other Languages. Currently, they are in local schools doing student-teaching, which means they run a classroom.

In several cases, the seniors were offered jobs on the spot.

Georges was among them, carrying out contract offers from Lee and Collier schools. Her hope is to be among the 300 new teachers Collier anticipates it will hire for August.

Across the board, hiring representatives from schools around the state were pleased with the level of experience and knowledge the students showed in the interviews.

At the halfway point in the job fair, representatives from Hendry County’s school system had already sat down with close to 10 candidates and had already offered one person a contract on the spot.

On average, the district hires between 50 and 75 new teachers a year.

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Quality educators with good communication skills and content knowledge is on the checklist for new hires, said Roberto Sanchez, director of secondary education in Hendry County.

“But above all, we want them to have love for our students and a passion for improving their lives,” he said. “Because the work that we do serves to better the lives of others and you have to have love to do that.”

Having experience in both in-person and virtual teaching is also desirable, explained David Sanon, principal on assignment for the Lee County school district.

“If there’s any silver lining or anything with the whole COVID experience is that at the end of last year we transitioned to distance learning, the teachers pretty much were thrown into and forced to use technology in ways I think they probably never would have,” he said.

He anticipates the need for those unique skills will “carry over after things go back to normal.”

On average Lee hires between 400 and 700 teachers a year. By noon, the district had already interviewed about 20 students and offered contracts to 16.

“You figure we still have need for teachers in our district, just like everywhere else, and now COVID has kind of changed things a little bit,” he said. “It doesn’t change the fact that in August that we have a need for teachers — the same need that we had in years past — if not more.

Officials with FSW have heard the need from local schools and have been bringing on more students to its program. Next spring, 77 students will graduate, which is twice as many teachers for local jobs.

The School of Education has also implemented academic changes forced by the pandemic.

Classes converted to Zoom lectures, professors were no longer able to do in-person observations of their students when they interned in area schools, and students were asked to embrace technology like never before, explained Joyce Rollins, chair of the School of Education.

She’s been impressed with how her students have risen to the challenge of learning new skills.

“I think if anything, this pandemic has taught us that we need to be ready on short notice to continue teaching because school has to go on,” she said. “…We were already trying to be on the cusp of technology, but this has mandated it for us.”

Rollins said she was “amazed” with the ways her students have risen to the challenge of integrating technology tools in an engaging way for young minds.

“We were playing a version of ‘Sorry’ that asked questions, but they actually had the movable die, like we would push the screen and our dice would pop up and we could move our marker and we would answer our geography question,” she said.

FSW’s teacher training program has been a positive experience for Otis Genus, 40.

“It’s been good for me, really good for me — challenging, but I enjoy the challenge,” he said.

Genus spent 10 years as a math and biology instructor in Jamaica before moving to the United States. When he arrived, he needed to redo his teacher training before getting back into the classroom.

“I miss the students, teaching them, trying to leave an impact on them,” he said.

FSW’s program has made James Wright, 33, of Fort Myers, feel “absolutely” prepared and confident for the future, he said.

He said he is a career-changer who “jumped full fledge” into becoming a teacher about two and a half years ago. He owns his own business and used to wait tables but decided the time was right for a change.

“I’ve worked lots of jobs for my entire course of my life, and this is the first real career opportunity that I’ve ever been given, so it is a much different circumstance, but you can’t tell but I am smiling underneath this mask, that’s for sure,” he said.


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Patience, flexibility and hard work are among the top things he’s learned at FSW and through his on-the-job training at Rayma C. Page and Ray V. Pottorf elementary schools in Lee County.

“I’ve learned to just roll with the punches, do what you gotta do,” Wright said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, there’s not anything you can do, and there’s no reason to cry over spilled milk. You just have to be positive and get through it. It’s the best outlook to have for anything.”

Want to be a teacher?

The Collier and Lee school systems will host virtual fairs in April, both of which require people to apply ahead of time. District staff will review and screen applicants, with qualified candidates being invited to the event.

  • April 16: Collier County Public Schools’s virtual hiring event. Visit www.collierschools.com/hr for details.

  • April 26: Lee County Public Schools’ virtual hiring event. Visit www.leeschools.net/careers for details.

Soon-to-be teachers from Florida SouthWestern State College feel ready for classroom 2

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