Public schools in Washington County currently have about 45 vacancies to fill for the 2011-12 year — jobs that drew about 350 applicants Friday to a Teacher Recruitment Fair at Rockland Woods Elementary School.
Many of the prospective teachers are just finishing their senior years at colleges and universities, but others had years — in some cases decades — of classroom experience.
"I'm a retired educator," applicant Mironda Peace said.
For Peace, the fair was an opportunity to return to teaching, something she did from 1973 until her 2006 retirement from Fountaindale Elementary School.
"I just enjoy teaching, it's a very rewarding profession," said Peace, a library media specialist who taught in the Baltimore area early in her career.
The pay varies whether an applicant is a fresh-faced college graduate, or someone with a master's degree or years of experience, said Donna Newcomer, the county school system's director of human resources.
For a person with a bachelor's degree and no experience, the starting pay is $43,662, although contract negotiations are ongoing for next year, Newcomer said.
There could be more vacancies due to retirements and resignations before next year, she said.
In some years, the county school system has hired 200 or more teachers, especially when a "retirement bubble" occurs, she said.
Last year, the county school system hired nearly 100 new teachers, she said. The system has 1,773 teachers.
Special education, math, the sciences and foreign languages are specialties for which the system needs teachers, she said.
Kara Jacobs of Charles Town, W.Va., said she was born to teach.
"I always was a teacher, and I went to school to improve the skills I already had," said Jacobs, who wants a position in elementary special education. She graduated in December from Western Governors University in Utah.
Jacobs said she is not limiting her search to Washington County. She is also looking at opportunities in West Virginia and Virginia.
"I think every kid deserves a good teacher. I just want to put those skills to work," said Kennedy Nestares of Hagerstown.
She is finishing her senior year at Frostburg University's campus at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, as are Brittany Collins of Hagerstown and Lea Drury of Williamsport.
All three said they will be certified to teach pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Nestares said she has wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten.
"I had kindergarten Barbie and everything," Nestares said.
"I had kindergarten Barbie, too," Collins said.
The fair was first held four years ago at the system's central office, but the response was bigger than expected, Newcomer said.
"We had to make some adjustments," she said, standing in a gymnasium filled with applicants and interviewers.