Education graduates explore their options

Here is a look at Nebraska school districts’ salary bases for 2011-2012 in different districts.

Story by Emily Deck, NewsNetNebraska

Welcome to the waiting game.

Many new University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduates hoping to work as teachers in Nebraska’s larger school districts are left waiting or looking for jobs elsewhere.

“Most of our students like staying in a larger area like Omaha or Lincoln,” Becky Faber, assistant director at University of Nebraska-Lincoln career services, said.

The economy of the last two years has had an impact on the number of jobs available for recent graduates who are looking in the eastern third of state. Some schools have increased class sizes for elementary school classes and not replaced teachers who have leftt, Faber said.

Alex Egger, who graduated in May from UNL, said he intends to wait so he can find a teaching job close to Lincoln.

Becky Faber, Ph.D., assistant director at University of Nebraska-Lincoln career services, stays busy working in her office even during the summer.

“I have such good friends and relationships here,” Egger said. “I don’t want to leave.”

With more than 2,200 applicants a year, the Lincoln Public School District can be a challenging place for new graduates to begin their new careers, Nancy Biggs, associate superintendent human resources for LPS, said.

Egger didn’t expect to be one of those students looking for jobs after graduation, but with a convenient job as a bartender in Lincoln, he is not panicking yet.

“I am lucky that I can be so picky,” Egger said. “I know kids who take jobs because they have no other options.”

Cody Whipkey, who graduated in May, found his first opportunity elsewhere. Whipkey will teach social studies in Sumner, Neb., 167 miles from Lincoln. The district serves about 180 students from three communities. That wasn’t his original plan, but when he wasn’t getting jobs in the Lincoln or Omaha area, he decided to relocate.

“I’m extremely fortunate to have just gotten the interview, let alone a job offer,” Whipkey said.

Whipkey has begun adjusting to life in his new surroundings.

“I still get weird looks when I walk into the post office or a restaurant, as I’m the new face in town,” Whipkey said. “Everyone wants to know why I’m there.”

While some school districts are smaller, it does not mean that they are struggling to find teachers.

2010-2011 Endorsement areas in Nebraska with largest number of unfilled positions.

Cody-Kilgore district has not had to hire a teacher for five years, Donna Blocker, business manager for Cody-Kilgore, said.

Other small districts do struggle to attract a high number of applicants. Positions at secondary level average six to 10 applicants, said Ken Kujath, 6-12 principal in Broken Bow, Neb.. The town is 175 miles from Lincoln.

Every district faces teacher shortages in some areas even LPS. The top three areas of shortage in Nebraska public schools are special education, speech-language pathology and world-language Spanish.

“Typically, there is a higher likelihood of getting hired in math, science and special education,” Lincoln District’s Biggs said. “I had years where we didn’t have enough PE applicants.”

Persistence is key for students who insist staying in Lincoln. UNL’s Faber said students who want to stay in the Lincoln area just have to go out on the job market and keep pushing.

For the students who are willing to move and want to get first job, unemployment can be overcome.

“The research says teachers can always get a job, if they are willing to move,” Biggs said. “So, if you’re willing to move to a small community, Alaska or rural Nebraska, there are always jobs somewhere.”