1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
For the past two months, Leah Bachert has been teaching algebra at Laramie High School.
Her students, though, aren’t the only ones who have been learning.
While Bachert knows her stuff when it comes to algebra -- the sometimes complicated variation of mathematics that combines geometry, analysis, topology and number theory -- the University of Wyoming senior is still figuring her way around a classroom.
With a wide smile, Bachert says, “It’s been an adventure.”
Now, Bachert is ready for her next adventure.
On Thursday, March 10, and Friday, March 11, Bachert will be among the hundreds of UW students who will meet and interview with prospective employers at the university’s annual Teacher Fair inside the UW Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie.
A key component in UW’s quest to remain the Cowboy State’s top provider of teachers, the fair brings together hopefuls like Bachert and recruiters from school districts across Wyoming and region for interviews that could lead to employment.
This year, UW will host representatives from nearly 30 school districts and educational-based centers in Wyoming, Alaska, Colorado, Kansas and Montana.
“Our annual Teacher Fair provides a unique opportunity for Wyoming school district representatives to not only meet UW students but to see, first-hand, the quality of our students,” says Jo Chytka, director of the UW Center for Advising and Career Services. “It’s truly an opportunity for our future teachers, too. They have a forum that allows them to articulate their student teaching and practicum experiences and talk about how their education at UW has shaped them to become successful teachers in the classroom.”
She adds, “It’s part of our job, as the state’s only four-year university, to supply bright, qualified and passionate teachers in Wyoming and that’s a job we take seriously.”
It’s a job UW does well, says Fred George, who has attended the fair for about 10 years to recruit for Converse County School District No. 1. He points to one of the district’s recent hires, Lee Toldson, a 2010 graduate who now teaches physical education at Douglas Middle School, as a prime example of the university’s quality.
“He’s enthusiastic, he’s made a great connection with the students and he’s an excellent teacher,” says George, the school’s principal. “And he’s not the exception. He’s the norm when it comes to the folks we’ve hired from the University of Wyoming.”
The search for UW’s next success stories will begin in a crowded ballroom full of nervous yet excited hopefuls like Bachert, a secondary mathematics education major from Fairbanks, Alaska, and Staci Reed, a senior from Lusk with the same major.
With graduation just months away, Bachert and Reed are both seeking an opportunity to take over a classroom of their own, preferably in Wyoming.
They’ve traded long hours of studying early in their UW educational experience for longer hours of developing course plans and grading tests as student teachers. While Bachert trains at Laramie High, Reed has been teaching general math to sixth-graders and geometry to ninth-graders at the UW Lab School.
“Student teaching is like a four-month-long lab,” Reed says with a laugh. “But it’s a great experience because you find out what it’s going to be like in the real world.”
Adds Bachert, “It’s a lot of trial and error. You remember what works and when something doesn’t work, I can go to my mentor teacher and say, ‘Help!’ It’s a learning experience every day.”
What makes for a successful lesson plan? What are the best ways to manage a classroom? How do you handle trouble behavior?
Those are just a few of the questions that any teacher must answer to become a success.
In his experience, George says UW graduates are more than capable of not only answering those questions but helping to set the teaching standard. In addition to Toldson, George says UW graduates like Evan Bock, Emily (Hoefler) Haught and Cody Helenbolt have established themselves in his district.
“This is probably the best organized teacher fair I attend every year -- and I attend fairs throughout the region,” he says. “And, most importantly, I’ve just been really pleased with the quality of the applicants we’ve met and hired. They’re always well prepared and professional, and we have a number of examples on our staff alone.”
There’s another reason why the UW Teacher Fair appeals to George and other in-state recruiters.
“It’s such a benefit to us that the candidates are familiar with Wyoming, because then it’s not as difficult to sell your community. If you meet a student from Casper and tell them you’re from Douglas, they know what you’re talking about. They know Douglas,” George says. “It’s not the same when I go to Greeley, Colo., or Spearfish, S.D., or Billings, Mont. They don’t know where Douglas is.
“I’ve even went to other places, like Salt Lake City, and it’s a much tougher sell because they just don’t know Wyoming.”
That’s good news for Bachert and Reed.
Bachert’s original plan of returning to Alaska to begin her teaching career has changed with her recent engagement to Brandon Stoner, a junior kinesiology major. Her goal now is to find work in Laramie or Cheyenne.
Reed hopes to stay in the eastern part of the state, though she says she’d be thrilled to work “anywhere in Wyoming.”
“I’m a Wyoming girl, through and through, and I don’t want to go anywhere else,” she proudly says.
Not long ago, John Hennings was in the same spot as Bachert and Reed.
A Laramie native, Hennings was preparing for the Teacher Fair and seeking his first job, preferably in his home state. He was especially focused on what he called his “dream” job, the PE teaching position at the Lab School, which was vacant at the time.
“I badly wanted the job,” Hennings says. “I remember having some nerves but I was really thrilled to have the chance to interview for the job.”
Others, he recalls, let their nerves get the better of them.
“There were a lot of people who were very nervous,” Hennings recalls. “I heard a lot of buzz before the Teacher Fair. People were saying, ‘Get that suit ready’ and ‘Get your resume ready.’” But I really just tried to think of it as a good opportunity to visit with administrators, develop my interview skills and learn more about the opportunities that were available.
“I know a lot of people who have been hired into their careers because they went to the Teacher Fair. All it does is open doors for you.”
His best advice for hopefuls like Bachert and Reed?
“Just relax and view it as an opportunity,” says Hennings, who was hired at the Lab School soon after interviewing with Principal Margaret Hudson at the Teacher Fair. “Only good things can come out of it.”
George offers similar advice.
“I would encourage them to be prepared to sell themselves for what they can offer in the classroom as a teacher but also to emphasize any training that sets them aside from others, whether it’s coaching, a second language or something else,” he says. “Just be themselves and be positive.”
Bachert and Reed admit they’re nervous. Who wouldn’t be?
But they also know UW has readied them for success in the classroom.
“The College of Education here is awesome and even on the days when I don’t feel like I’m prepared, I know that this university has prepared me,” Bachert says. “My entire time here has been preparation.”
She pauses and adds, “I’m definitely glad I came here for my four years of college.”