Julie Schoenbeck sits on a bench in the middle of a Central High School hallway, waiting her turn at the interview table.
The Macon woman will complete her Master of Education degree this summer, and she could get a gig in Atlanta. But she wants to stay in Bibb County, which is why she attended the Bibb County Teacher Recruitment Fair held Saturday, she said.
For us, its real important for the future of this county and this area that we educate these kids properly, she said.
More than 230 candidates dropped by the event to scope job opportunities, hand in résumés and, in many cases, interview for jobs on the spot. Those on-site interviews was a main reason why the district held its own event this year -- in the past, the school system would partner with other districts to host a regional teacher fair.
Despite dreary conditions, officials said they were happy with the turnout. Both school employees and candidates said the process was less overwhelming compared to previous years, when Bibb Countys fair included hundreds of candidates and employees from different districts.
If you got five minutes with a teacher, you were happy, Schoenbeck said about past teacher fairs, and you almost never saw a principal.
That was not the case Saturday, as teachers and principals mingled with candidates who stopped by the schools tables, which were decorated with school colors and mascots. A stuffed tiger sat near the Ballard-Hudson Middle School table. A stethoscope sat on the bright red Northeast High School table, and black and purple pom-poms scattered across Howard High Schools tabletop.
At Jones Elementary Schools table, teachers and administrators chatted with potential employees.
I think the turnout is pretty good. Its not overwhelming, Principal Keela Malone said. It feels good. It feels right ... It flows better.
Teachers and administrators not only mingled with candidates, but they also caught up with one another. Ralph Brown, a biology teacher at Central High School, stood in the gym, chatting with a teacher from another school.
Not only are people seeking jobs, but there is also relationship building among teachers who dont get to see each other (often) from year to year, Brown said.
Eric Mack ventured to the fair, ready to chat with potential bosses and colleagues. The special education teacher has worked for Bibb County before. Now a teacher in Atlanta, Mack is looking to come back to Bibb because his fiancée is from the area.
Additionally, he heard there is a demand for special education teachers in the area, he said.
I know there is a large need for help with special needs children, he said.
While many were looking for jobs because of proximity, others said they were intrigued by both the challenges and proposed changes of Bibb County schools.
The Bibb County school system recently has been engulfed in controversy over financial decisions, particularly the districts financial commitment to the Macon Promise Neighborhood program. The district also has faced controversy over Superintendent Romain Dallemands Macon Miracle initiative, an extensive overhaul of the school system that includes plans to improve graduation rates, discipline, technology and school structure, among other goals.
Still, some teacher candidates, such as Lakyn Traquair, say they are optimistic and excited that the school system is attempting changes.
I feel like Bibb County is starting to take a turn, said Traquair, a Macon resident who has spent the past year in the Houston County school system. Last year, Houston Countys teacher fair attracted more than 700 applicants. Houston County will hold this years fair from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Veterans High School in Kathleen.
Traquair wandered throughout the gym minutes after interviewing for positions at Bibb County schools. One interviewer asked Traquair why she wanted to become a teacher in the first place.
When I was in the second grade, I had a teacher who told me, You can do whatever you want to do, she said. She had such an impact on me, that I wanted to be able to have that impact.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this article. To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.