Durham Public Schools career fair offers educators new opportunities

School district employees posed for a photo in the Hillside High School lobby.  The team was busy greeting job fair attendees and keeping things running smoothly. (From left to right) Kimberly Hager, Regina Nickson, Paula Obie, Sonia Gonzalez, Tammy Johnson, Laura Bruhn, and Tori Royster (Staff photo by Elisabeth Beauchamp)

The halls of Hillside High School were packed with administrators, educators and endless opportunity on April 6.

Fifty-three schools in the Durham Public Schools system gathered at Hillside High School for the annual Teacher Career and Transfer Fair, a community-wide event for individuals to explore employment opportunities. All grade levels and subject areas are involved, including the English as a Second Language and the Academically or Intellectually Gifted departments.

The event is part of the School Superintendent Pascal Mubenga’s vision for the school district, said Regina Nickson, Durham Public Schools human resource administrator.

“His vision is to be a community partnership with our community and with our educators,” she said. “There are several priority areas, and one of them is recruitment. So they have invested a lot of energy, time and dollars into recruitment, retention and making it a very supportive environment for our educators.”

Durham Public Schools hosted the annual North Central Regional Educational Job Fair in March. The regional fair was also available to surrounding school districts and attracted about 250 candidates this year.

The summer is the school district’s peak time for staffing, Nickson said. The career fair gives the process an early start.

“They are interviewing, and there are people walking away with early contracts today,” Nickson said.

One of the schools recruiting teachers for the next school year is Rogers-Herr Middle School, a year-round school in Durham.

“We look for quality, passion with kids and someone who can build effective relationships with them, because that’s where it all begins,” said Tyler Albright, the principal intern of Rogers-Herr Middle School.

Eighth-grade language arts teacher Keaundra Robinson represents Rogers-Herr Middle School, a place she described as promoting “elevated excellence” for students and educators. (Staff photo by Elisabeth Beauchamp)

Keaundra Robinson, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Rogers-Herr Middle School, said she experienced this relationship as a student, and it inspired her to pursue teaching.

“Everything that I do when I’m planning, I always literally think back to myself as a student,” Robinson said. “I think that when you speak about what we might be looking for is a person who is very student-centered, who understands the impact of what they’re doing as far as how that’s going to impact our community here in Durham.”

The fair also included vendors like Barnes and Noble and leasing apartment agencies for those coming from outside of Durham.

Some educators already working in the school district attended the event to find new ways to enhance their work.

Morgan Githmark, a 23-year-old from Charlotte, is a seventh-grade English teacher at Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham.  She attended the job fair to see all the opportunities the school district has to offer.

Githmark said teachers have the power to influence the upcoming generation in countless ways.

“We are teaching the next generation,” Githmark said. “If you want passionate, educated, informed students to grow up and become leaders, then you need to get in the classroom and start there.”

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and Maureen Joy Charter School teacher Morgan Githmark attended the job fair in search of new opportunities and ways to excel in her career. (Staff photo by Diane Adame.)

Githmark said she hopes that, with the influence she holds as an educator, she can teach the next generation to adopt kindness as well as an “openness and a willingness to learn from other people who are not like them.”

Nickson said the district leaders are trying to build a more diverse team of educators to reflect the growing student population.

Earlier this year, a recruiter and teacher for the school district, Victor Hiraldo, traveled to Puerto Rico to help recruit bilingual teachers.

Kimberly Hager, a senior executive director of human resources for Durham Public Schools, said 31% of the school district’s student population identifies as Hispanic/Latino.

“We are going again because we’re trying to create a community,” Hager said. “We’re looking for bilingual teachers so that our students can see themselves because that’s so important.”

Nickson said the school district has struggled with state funding and charter school funding.

By improving the teaching environment for educators and administrators, Nickson is certain the district as a whole will be strengthened over time.

“The culture has changed. It’s all about empowerment. It’s all about support. It’s all about believing in yourself,” Nickson said. “If our teachers are supported – if our teachers are comfortable, then that trickles down to our students and to our families. It’s all about our students, and it’s all about our families.”