Hopeful educators met interested administrators on Saturday, as the Bibb County school district held its teacher recruitment fair at Howard High School.
The event, which has been held in Bibb County for at least 20 years, provides teaching candidates the opportunity to meet face to face with principals and other representatives from each of the county's public schools.
"It offers variety," said Union Elementary School Assistant Principal Donna Mallett. "Our teachers are able to see what Bibb County has to offer."
For more than 175 prospective teachers who came through Howard's doors for the fair, Saturday could have been the end of their job search. The district already knows of about 70 teachers retiring this year, which means most schools had at least two or three positions to fill, with some having as many as 10.
Further, school leaders had the ability to hire desired candidates for those openings by offering contingency contracts. Teachers began receiving those contracts as early as the first hour of the three-hour event, and the deal hinged on whether qualifications and references came back favorably.
"Everything checks out, we'll sign them on for a permanent contract," said Paige Busbee, assistant superintendent for human resources.
Busbee said that ability to essentially hire teachers on the spot offered benefits for administrators.
"For a principal, it allows them to have more time to plan for next year," she said.
Even if applicants didn't receive a contract Saturday, that isn't the end of the road for them in Bibb County. The contract deadline for employees isn't until May 15, so more spots will come open later.
"We could fill every position today, and we'll still have turnover," Busbee said.
The Northeast High School administrators were joined for the fair by science department head Tara Jones-Lawrence. She said Northeast was looking for candidates who were "willing to engage students in their learning" and added that the fair gave schools the "first grab" of interested and qualified teachers.
"It gives us those fresh eyes to get the best applicants we can find," she said.
Jones-Lawrence knows all about the recruitment fair. She was hired through a contingency contract offered at the event six years ago and said she was "ecstatic" to receive the opportunity to work for the district.
"It really just showed me that I can do this," she said.
Of course, the experience can also be a little bit nerve-wracking for prospective teachers, with the school's halls lined with potential employers.
Casey Martin is a 22-year-old Middle Georgia State University student and Monroe native interested in teaching kindergarten, and she said she was particularly anxious earlier in the day.
"I was (nervous) at first, but after the first one, I'm fine," she said.
Martin said she had already interviewed with Porter and Heritage elementary schools and was headed to talk with the team from Springdale. The chance to visit with schools that represent various communities and education styles in Bibb County was another benefit of the fair, she added.
"It gives everybody the opportunity to see the different types of schools around," Martin said.
The candidates varied in age and came from various locations around the state, with some currently employed in other school districts. Standing near a table decorated with star-shaped cookies for Union Elementary School, Mallett said location had become less of an issue for young teachers.
"The people going into education today, they're very transient," she said. "Bibb County is the best, and they're going to see that."
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.