Ascension’s teacher job fair draws 300 prospects

Three hundred teacher candidates made their pitches to Ascension Parish school officials Thursday morning, hoping to land jobs at the district’s 28 schools.

The Ascension Parish school district hosted its annual job fair Thursday at Dutchtown High School, attracting candidates from across the region and out of state seeking to be hired for one of the district’s 70 open teaching positions.

Superintendent Patrice Pujol said she knew the job fair would attract a large number of teachers because the district is adding 50 new teaching jobs for next school year.

“We always have a great turnout no matter how many positions we have because Ascension Parish is a great place to work and teach,” Pujol said.

Kayla Moak was one of the candidates hoping to catch the eye of a principal and be offered one of the coveted jobs.

The veteran fourth-grade teacher, who spent eight years teaching in East Baton Rouge Parish, said she planned to speak with officials from Dutchtown, Galvez, Prairieville and Spanish Lake primary schools and Lake Elementary. She said she was interested in working in Ascension Parish because she recently had her first child, and she and her husband plan to move to the parish.

Moak said she spent the last eight weeks of the school year on maternity leave, so she had to turn her focus back into “school mode” for the job fair. She made an online portfolio and brought a print portfolio with her to hand to administrators.

“I’m creative and definitely innovative when it comes to curriculum,” Moak said of her teaching strengths. “I noticed a few years ago that the rest of the country was moving toward the Common Core State Standards, so I switched two years ago on my own.”

Britt Colon, principal at Spanish Lake Primary School, said he was looking for someone similar to Moak who could show initiative and innovation.

“There was a young lady who came in so enthusiastic,” Colon said. “I think enthusiasm and passion is what’s going to differentiate candidates.”

Colon, who said he spoke to several quality candidates, doesn’t have a job opening at his school. However, he said the job fair allowed him to gather a pool of potential candidates in case he has an opening next month like those that cropped up during the past two summers.

Richard Aucoin, 28, of Denham Springs, said he was hoping to turn his two years of middle-school teaching in Livingston Parish into a higher-paying job in Ascension.

Aucoin, who said he was certified to teach English or social studies in middle school or high school, said he brought resumés, was trying to project confidence and let administrators know he is a hard worker who also is coachable.

“I live in Livingston Parish,” he said. “(Ascension is) a nearby parish with really good schools. I know the pay scale is higher in Ascension.”

A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience would have a base salary of $43,411 a year in Ascension Parish.

While Moak and Colon were trying to use their experience to get a new job, 23-year-old Ashley Smith was trying to land her first full-time teaching position.

The December graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University spent the second half of the 2012-13 school year as a substitute in East Baton Rouge and Ascension schools, and said she was determined to find a job for the fall.

In addition to the Ascension job fair, she plans to seek employment in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Zachary and Central schools.

“It’s really stressful,” Smith said. “I’m so nervous. I’m so anxious, and when I get anxious I talk a lot, so I’m probably talking their heads off.”