Second only to the stress of landing a job for a new teacher, can be the stress over feeling comfortable at your newly assigned school site.
As a follow up event to the Manteca Unified School District Job Fair conducted Feb. 20, the 50 newly hired teachers for the 2016-2017 school year were invited last week to Sierra High School for a chance to get to know the principals at each school sites with openings.
“We creatively put in place a new and efficient way that would allow principals to have input on which new teachers would be best fits for their sites as well as hire quickly so as not to lose out on the top teaching candidates in the field,” said Bonnie Bennett, MUSD Director of Certificated Personnel. “We had screening interviews at the job fair, and principals were able to interview some candidates, but not all. Those candidates who were given tentative offers have a chance tonight to meet more principals, have a few minutes of conversation and see if it is a good fit or not. The candidates are prioritizing the top 10 sites on their wish list of MUSD schools.”
New hires to the district can only get so much from looking at a website.
“I was excited about it because I believe a teacher who is placed at his or her school of choice will be inclined to fully participate in the school,” Bennett said. “So, when we are looking for long-term commitment during a teacher shortage, giving new hires a voice in their teaching assignments and building positive relationships from the start is essential.”
Bennett believes that this is the first time MUSD has tried this approach.
“I took a driving tour of the district because it is nice to know the location of the school and get a feel for the community around the school, said one dedicated new hire, Constance Blackmon. “I’m not from Manteca, and it took quite some time to look at every school site in all three cities. I’m from Turlock and was educated in Modesto at Brandman University.”
Blackmon said she chose Manteca because Bennett “came and spoke to my credential class and really pulled me in. I just love her! I then saw her at the job fair, and she interviewed me and I got the job. I couldn’t be more excited!”
Many of MUSD’s newly hired teachers will work at one of the district’s K-8 schools. They talked to many of the principals present at the event. Some had a more targeted approach.
“In 10 job fairs I have been to, there has only been 1 physics candidate and two math candidates,” Bennett said.
That newly hired physics teacher, who will be starting at Weston Ranch High School this fall, has a unique path to Manteca.
“I am Hungarian and this is my fourth year in the United States,” shared Csaba Hegyi, (pronounced Chaba Agee). “My wife is from Modesto. I have some friends who are teachers here and I have heard lots of good things about the district.”
“(Manteca employees) just seem that they are so happy all the time. It seems like they are happy with their job and in their private life. They are my climbing partners; I do all kinds of climbing,” said Hegyi.
Another new hire who has a unique journey is James Gray, from New Orleans. “I transferred from Southern University, as a junior, when Hurricane Katrina hit,” Gray said. “I was born and raised in New Orleans. I was one of the people who fled from the storm, the day before, and we lost everything in the storm. Losing everything makes you work a lot harder.”
“I came to Manteca Unified because I believe that there is growth here,” Gray added. “I am interested in going into administration and looking for more opportunities to be there when I’m ready to make that transition. They are very friendly here, which is right up my alley. Being southern, we like talking to people.”
Not one to let his difficult journey get him down, Gray also shared, “I try to bring a little southern culture to the classroom. One year we made beignets in the classroom and parents came in to help. We even threw our own little Mardi Gras and told them what that is about.”
The event welcomed some home-grown talent as well.
“I’m really excited and so thankful for this opportunity,” Devanée Quaresma said. “I have really wanted to work with Manteca Unified School District for a while now. I just actually moved from Idaho. I graduated from Boise State, but I grew up here in Manteca, so I’m so happy to be back. I wanted to get out of the area when I graduated from high school because California was hit pretty hard with the economy.”
Another local is headed to Lathrop High School to teach biology.
“Yes, I’m excited to be a Spartan,” Megan Smith said. “It helps because I am an East Union Alumni and my husband is a Sierra Alumni, so we are going to find some neutral ground here in Lathrop.”
“I grew up here in Manteca and got my bachelors from UC Davis in Genetics,” Smith said. “I’ve been teaching with the One Program with the County and Teacher’s College for two years and working through my intern program there. I am finishing up my credential there in a month, and decided to make a move over here to Manteca. I have also started my Masters in STEM Education through Teacher’s College.”
Another local, Erika Mallory said, “I love this event because we get to meet and get a good feel for whether or not we will fit with the schools. I really like Lathrop Elementary. I like the small school feel. I grew up in Tracy but now live in Lathrop. I graduated from Tracy High School. I chose Manteca Unified because of the technology program and it is close to home.”
About two-thirds of the teacher applicants are new to the profession and one-third are veterans.
Teachers seem to want to work in Manteca because of the top salaries, the digital opportunities for students and staff, and because Manteca has an excellent reputation for being both innovative and yet stable,” Bennett said.