When math instructor Cody Burton decided to attend last year's Rutherford County Schools Teacher Recruitment Fair, he was exploring his options.
He was in his third year of teaching at a much smaller district.
The job fair was an opportunity to network with potential educators, learn more about Rutherford County Schools and for district administrators to learn more about him. Burton thought he would gather and share information, and then return home to continue researching a possible change.
Then he met Steve Luker.
Luker had been named principal of Rockvale High School and was tasked with hiring a full staff of administrators and faculty members.
"He really fit with what I wanted personally from my personal experience and professional experience," Burton said. "Because it's a brand-new school, it's going to be crazy and it's going to be exhausting, but I said, 'I want to work for Mr. Luker.'"
Burton found a system and then an administrator, which ultimately led him to Rockvale.
Had it not been for attending the job fair, it is possible he would still be a "big fish in a small pond" who was both nervous and apprehensive about "coming to a big pond" like Rutherford County Schools, which is the fourth largest school district in Tennessee.
This year's Teacher Recruitment Fair is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro. Principals and administrators will be on hand from all 49 schools.
"It was busy," said Burton, describing his experience at last year's fair. "There was a lot going on. There was a lot of excitement. There were a lot of people. … I was surprised by the diversity. I come from a smaller town and we don't have the diversity that we have in the instructors that we do here in Rutherford County, and just seeing that in that initial atmosphere was something that was really interesting to me."
Once again, there are positions available from Pre-K through 12 and an opportunity to sign preliminary contracts for many of the positions.
In addition to early signing bonuses, hard-to-staff areas — 6–12 math, physics, chemistry, world languages, ESL and board-certified behavior analysts — will also receive bonuses.
He knew about the early signing bonus but was not aware of the hard-to-staff bonus until he was signing his contract. Burton was pleasantly surprised when he received both bonuses.
"I got it on my October paycheck," said Burton, who added. "It's a nice check to get."
Burton said he would recommend this year's interested educators to "talk with everyone."
Even if a particular school does not have a specific position available in your course of study, Burton explained that it's important for teachers, especially those new to the profession, to remember those needs could change in a month or two or even six months. Not to mention, he said, finding the right fit has to do with building and developing relationships.
"It's so hard to just look at a list on a sheet of paper and say, 'This is where I'm going to spend the next so many years of my life investing in these people and these students and this school and this system,'" Burton concluded. "It's so hard to do that just from a sheet of paper and I don't feel like you can do it effectively or efficiently.
"So having the job fair … really makes a difference."
More information is available by following the latest job postings on Twitter: @rcs_jobs or by contacting Par Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Steve Luker, right, interviews potential job candidate at last year's job fair. (James Evans/RCS)