Getting Your First Teaching Job: An Interview with Sarah Chicoine
Sarah Chicoine is an elementary school teacher from Massachusetts. Sarah resides in a town that features one of the top-rated school systems in the state. Although her experience would allow her to teach in a top-ranked school system, Sarah has chosen a different route. Instead, she teaches in the socioeconomically diverse town in which she was raised, where the school system faces some challenges. Among those challenges, Sarah has had two students who did not speak English.
So, why did Sarah choose this path over the seemingly easier one? She says it is her calling and that these students need her. Let’s find out more about Sarah.
Resume-Now: Welcome. How would you introduce yourself to a group of parents, students and teachers?
Chicoine: I’m an elementary school teacher who is a passionate lifelong learner with a purpose. I’m here to get to know each student and understand their individual emotional, social and academic needs. I also want to help each student discover what makes them unique and foster their desire to develop into lifelong learners.
I wasn’t a leader until I became a teacher. As a teacher, I truly found myself. I became confident and more willing to speak to a large crowd of people.
Resume-Now: How did you decide to become a teacher?
Chicoine: I initially didn’t think a career in education was for me. I chose to take a position in hospitality after college graduation and realized soon after that I loved being with children. I began substitute teaching and became influenced by the children. I could feel their excitement to learn and engage with one another. It was around that time I decided teaching was for me.
Resume-Now: Do you have any tips for people getting their first teaching job?
Chicoine: Do what you can to show you’re willing to learn and grow. Teaching and education change daily and you have to show you’re nimble or you become the problem, not the solution.
Resume-Now: Who influenced you to become an educator, and how did they influence you?
Chicoine: When I started student teaching, I was fortunate to work with an incredibly sought-after teacher named Lucy Calkins. She is a reading and writing guru and inspired me to foster a true love of reading and writing with my students.
She displayed patience and an understanding of students’ individual needs. She spoke in a clear, melodic voice, and I watched as her students focused on her lessons and transitions. I eventually adopted similar methods which I still use today.
Resume-Now: How did you get your first teaching job interview? Did you use networking and personal connections, a job board, or other methods?
Chicoine: I found my first position as a teacher at the same school where I completed my internship. They hired me knowing how eager I was, and they felt I added to the school community in a positive way.
Resume-Now: What do you remember most about your first year of teaching? What story sticks out in your mind? How did this story influence you as an educator?
Chicoine: I remember feeling like a fish out of water, but I created true bonds with all my students. I still speak to some of them, now young adults. I mostly remember the sense of community we built in our class. I recall creating a yearbook at the end of the year. One student’s essay was about how I influenced her as a student. I then realized how much power a teacher holds over students.
That is the most important part of teaching in my mind; building a relationship with students first. Then the learning can happen.
Resume-Now: What should prospective teachers include in their resumes?
Chicoine: Teachers need to make sure their resumes communicate four essential qualities:
- Eagerness and willingness to learn new methods of instruction
- Understanding the need to reflect and differentiate on the spot
- Willingness to lead and be a team player
- Ability to self-reflect, adapt and change
Resume-Now: What advice would you give to new teachers who are wondering how to start a teaching career?
Chicoine: Take the time to really get to know your students. Spend the first three weeks creating a comfortable environment where routines and procedures are in place. Establish a setting where students are kind to one another and aren’t afraid of discourse. Encourage them to share their ideas, understandings and misunderstandings. It’s not an easy job, but it’s one of the most important jobs out there.
Resume-Now: Do you have any practical advice for teachers who are preparing for their first teaching job interview?
Chicoine: Listen during the interview. You’ll get a sense of what the district or school wants if you pay attention to how the hiring committee speaks about the school. Also, ask the hiring committee to share one of the biggest challenges they are facing and what their priorities are. Again, listen carefully to their response. You can frame your interview answers to suit their needs, not what you want from your career.
Resume-Now: What would you do differently if you had a do-over?
Chicoine: I wouldn’t overwhelm myself. At the beginning of my career, I inundated myself with new methods and initiatives. Teaching is an art. It’s constantly changing, and we never truly reach an exemplary status. There’s so much to learn, but you can’t do it all.
So, I would take a deep breath and do my best.
A few more tips from Resume-Now
Now that you know more on how to start a teaching career, you need a resume and cover letter that highlight your experiences and your passion for teaching and connecting with students. Use our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Templates to construct professionally formatted, well-written documents that will stand out to the hiring committee and get you noticed (and hopefully, hired!).