Making an Archer teacher: exploring the hiring process

Cybele Zhang April 13, 2016 3
Making an Archer teacher: exploring the hiring process
Karen Pavliscak reads resumes. "It's hard; often what you see on paper doesn't communicate what the candidate's really like," Pavliscak said. Photographer: Cybele Zhang '18.

He waits nervously as he submits a resume. Her palms sweat as she awaits an interview. This all builds up to the big moment — getting the job.

Archer’s hiring process is extensive. It involves a wide array of community members and examines many different aspects of each candidate in order to find the best possible teachers. The goal is to procure teachers who not only teach well but add to the culture of the school.

What Archer Looks For

Archer seeks teachers who are knowledgeable in their field and will thrive at the school.

Teachers from left to right, Valerie Yoshimura, Meg Shirk, Amelia Mathis and Hanna Shohfi, dress as students for Spirit Week. At Archer, teachers are expected to participate outside the classroom too; Many coach sports, attend NOLS trips and advise clubs. Photographer: Anika Bhavnani '17

Teachers from left to right, Valerie Yoshimura, Meg Shirk, Amelia Mathis and Hanna Shohfi, dress as students for Spirit Week. At Archer, teachers are expected to participate outside the classroom too. Many teachers coach sports, attend NOLS trips and advise clubs. Photographer: Anika Bhavnani ’17

“We look that they have at least a masters in education or some sort of certification in education along with a degree in their subject,” Upper School Director Samantha Coyne Donnel said. “It’s important to us that teachers not only have expertise in their field, but they also understand the body of research on good pedagogy and curriculum design.”

“We look at how long they stay at a particular job — when hiring you want someone that will stick around,” Science Department Chair Shane Berning said.

Candidates should be a good fit for Archer.

“We try to have a student centered approach; it’s a caring, supportive environment. We don’t want someone who’ll come in and be a taskmaster and run a class with no soul,” Berning said.

Archer teachers collaborate closely with students and run student centered classrooms, so it’s important to find candidates who are prepared to do the same.

“[Teachers are] extremely dedicated, really hard working and are constantly looking for ways to make their classes better and more exciting,” Erika Amaya, Math Department Chair said.

Exact attributes and experience desired vary by department. For example, the Arts Department likes working professionals, while that might not be ideal for the History Department.

Pehiring-process-coyne-pull-out-quote (1)rforming Arts Department Chair Tracy Poverstein said, “We love people in the arts with experience in their own field, who make their own work. It only enhances the student experience if they can see a gallery show with their teacher’s work. The only thing we need to be mindful of is if their own professional career will impinge upon their hours at Archer.”

Finding Teachers

The first step in the hiring process involves administrators and Human Resources working together to write a description of the open position and what background and skills the ideal candidate would posses.

hiring-process-steps-graphic (2)

“There’s a dialogue that goes on between administrators and myself as a department chair about our needs in a position that needs to be filled. It’s very collaborative in that sense,” English Department Chair Brian Wogensen said.

History Teacher, Johanna Greene helps Uma Halsted '18 with a research paper. Greene is in her first year teaching at Archer. Photographer: Cybele Zhang '18

History Teacher, Johanna Greene helps Uma Halsted ’18 with a research paper. Greene is in her first year teaching at Archer. Photographer: Cybele Zhang ’18

That description is posted on various websites (e.g. Archer’s,  California Association of Independent Schools National Association of Independent Schools). Archer also uses head hunters like Carney Sandoe and CalWest. Faculty members also talk to colleagues, who may have connections.

“Anyone is open to apply to a position on campus, even if they’re an internal candidate. They would go through the same application process,” Coyne Donnel said.

Next, department chairs and administrators read through the submitted resumes and applications.

“When [reading a resume and] you see something jump out at you that is in line with what we do here at Archer [it stands out],” History Department Chair Lucy Pinkwater said.

untitled-infographic (2)Next is usually a phone or Skype interview. Depending on the position and time of year, Archer receives hundreds of applications according to Middle School Director Karen Pavliscak.

Remaining contenders visit Archer for a day of interviews with departments heads, administrators and coworkers.

“I look for authenticity and a person’s ability to really engage and open up about themselves as a teacher and what’s important to them about the philosophy of teaching,” Wogensen said. “You know it’s going well when the interview becomes a conversation. You know there is something powerful there.”

Finalists also present a sample lesson to current students and teachers.

“We try and get three or four [teachers] in there to observe, so we get different points of view about how that lesson went,” Wogensen said.

Observers then write write-ups about what they thought. Often, administrators also collect students’ opinions.

hiring-process-pav-pull-out-quote (3)“[We ask] how creative is their lesson? How are their management skills in the classroom? What is their rapport with students? How do they give student feedback?” Poverstein said.

“I do an extensive online search and background check,” Pavliscak said. “I want to know that this is the kind of candidate who will provide an exemplar for our students.” The best candidate is then offered the job.

Diversity

teacher-stats (1)Archer is an equal opportunity employer. Thus, the best empolyee is hired no matter their race or gender.

“We’ve been trained by our human resource department to make sure we not only follow the law, but withhold the belief that diversity is important here. Everyone has an equal opportunity to ultimately work here,” Pavliscak said.

However, this creates a tough dynamic when hiring. Administrators would like to create a diverse faculty, reflective of Los Angeles, but most applicants are Caucasian.

Although an applicant’s race and gender cannot affect who gets the job, Archer attempts to reach out to more diverse applicants.

“We’re working this year with a new consulting group that focuses on teachers of color and helping match them to independent schools, Coyne-Donnel said, “We’re posting our [job] descriptions more widely in places that can capture a wide range of teachers.”

 

Why Archer

Click below to learn why some of this year’s new teachers chose Archer.

Although each teacher has had their own unique experience at Archer, many stated their love of Archer’s community. The school’s culture creates a supportive environment in the classroom that many find beneficial for both students and teachers.

 

3 Comments »

  1. Elizabeth English April 18, 2016 at 1:30 PM -

    Excellent article, Cybele. Love the audio clips at the end!

  2. Samantha Coyne April 19, 2016 at 9:30 PM -

    Excellent reporting, Cybele. Your article captures the essence of the hiring process and the exceptional qualities of an Archer teacher.

  3. Theresa Dahlin April 27, 2016 at 11:34 AM -

    Always love to read your articles! Good job, Cybele!