February 25, 2011

Fair provides education in changing careers

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Don’t call it a career fair. Call it an opportunity.
Though the tough economic times haven’t missed the Londonderry School District, that doesn’t mean school officials are skipping their
 annual networking event. This year, however, the March fair that was previously devoted to interviewing new teacher candidates will be given a new twist. 

For the past decade, the Londonderry School District has held an annual Career Fair in the spring and the event has been a huge success over the years, Human Resources Director Suzie Swenson said. 
With budget challenges making staff cuts inevitable in the coming year and many residents contemplating a career change for various reasons, Swenson knew it was time to address the community’s interests while at the same time preparing the district for the unexpected staff vacancies that always seem to arise. 
“We still get those calls. People tell us they’ve always wanted to become a teacher, but they don’t know how to go about it,” Swenson said. 
Not a certified teacher yet? Not to worry. 
During the 2009 Career Fair, the district invited representatives from several local colleges to attend, offering information on those contemplating a new path. 
That new feature certainly resonated with fair-goers. 
“Over 300 people attended last year, so we knew this was a viable option,” Swenson said. 
This year, representatives from at least half a dozen area colleges will return, along with state Department of Education staff. Among the colleges being represented are Rivier College, Lesley University, University of New Hampshire, Keene State, Southern New Hampshire University and Plymouth State. 
As for those hoping to score an interview with the Londonderry School District, well, they won’t be disappointed. Others may sign up for a “mock interview,” where would-be job-searchers can practice their interviewing skills with actual school administrators. 
“It kind of goes back to the job fairs you’d have in college,” Benefits Coordinator Cindy McMahon said. “You’ll get some great feedback and suggestions.” 
Experienced educators are also welcome to attend. 
“Maybe an elementary teacher wants to learn more about getting special education certification,” McMahon noted. “The folks from the colleges can help clear that up for them. You can just wander in and find out.” 
Rounding out the event will be three free seminars: a marketing seminar hosted by Londonderry High School marketing teacher Scott Greene; a seminar focused on what schools seek in their applicants hosted by Assistant Superintendent Andy Corey; and a seminar on creating the ideal application packet hosted by Dr. Cindy Flow, spokesman for the popular SchoolSpring website. 
Greene, a former corporate recruiter, will share his own experiences in making a career change. 
He’s far from alone, Swenson and McMahon said, noting that two of the high school’s physics teachers are also later-in-life career changers. 
“One of them left an engineering position at BAE, while another was in the Army for 20 years,” McMahon said. “He taught physics at West Point.” 
“They’re both fabulous teachers,” Swenson added. “Sometimes, having life experience is so much better.” 

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