QPS thinks "outside the box" in hiring teachers

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 5, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- Quincy Public Schools boosted its number of competency-based teachers for the 2019-20 school year.

QPS last year wrote a waiver to the Illinois State Board of Education which allows hiring staff members who have a bachelor's degree and are interested in going back to school to earn a teaching degree.

"We hired three competency-based teachers last year. All had a very successful first year and are going into their second year of teaching and will have their professional educator license by May," QPS Personnel Director Lisa Otten said.

For this school year, QPS hired an additional 11 competency-based teachers, including three who worked as security guards in the district, and have them at work in the classroom.

"We're certainly trying to think outside the box for staff, how we can recruit teachers that maybe we never looked at before, and getting people into the classroom as soon as we possibly can," Otten said.

Otten provided the competency-based teaching update Wednesday for the Human Relations Committee.

The competencies those teachers bring to the classroom -- knowledge drawn from their careers -- might be very different than those of a first-year teacher just out of college, but "what we're finding is we have hired 14 really qualified, amazing people," Otten said. "They've got the credentials they need to teach. They just don't have the professional educator license."

Those staff members have two years to earn the required certification, and Otten monitors their progress on a quarterly basis.

The teachers work with Marilyn Smith, who runs the district's mentor program, and all are paired with a certified teacher who serves as a mentor.

Communication about the competency-based program, and educating staff and community, have been key, Otten said, and hosting a seminar to share even more information is a possibility.

"We think there's probably a larger pool of people out there than we realized perhaps interested in the field of education who don't know where to reach out or don't know where to contact or what the next steps ought to be," Otten said.

Otten and Carol Nichols, a School Board member and committee co-chair, reviewed staffing patterns, retention efforts and changes to the website which have generated more questions about available positions and some hires while also outlining the possibility of health care seminars and wellness partnerships for staff members.

"We're trying not to do anything overwhelming. We're still looking for things to make life easier," Nichols said.

That's key as QPS settles into the school year after wrapping up the transition to the last two new K-5 buildings, Thomas S. Baldwin Elementary School and Sarah Atwater Denman Elementary School, after transitions at the high school, junior high and into three other new elementary buildings.

"This is the year we want to support teachers more than ever," Otten said. "We want to make sure we're providing what they need to come together."