Taking Teachers from the Triad: Grads Well Prepared for Allentown S.D.
Frank Derrick ’96 started his academic career in engineering at Drexel, but an internship as an actuarial assistant made him rethink his college and career plans. Due to his love of reading, he transferred to Bloomsburg for a BA in English Literature. Then a volunteer opportunity at the writing center on campus caused him to rethink his career again.
“The interest level wasn’t there [referring to his internship],” said Derrick. “I didn’t know what to do with the English degree, and I didn’t want to move to another big city. While at the Bloomsburg Writing Center, I realized I’m an interaction person [and] really like working directly with kids and adults.”
Derrick obtained his master's degree and teaching certificate in 1999 and remained in the classroom for nearly a decade before moving on to become the principal at South Mountain Middle School in the Allentown School District. After spending nearly a year as that district's first Director of Recruitment and Retention, it has been Derrick's most recent role as acting principal of William Allen High School that has allowed him to appreciate the value that graduates from state schools like Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Lock Haven bring to the education industry and his school district.
“PASSHE teachers are more well-rounded [and tend to] understand a more diverse demographic,” said Derrick. “I’ve always found success with students from Bloom and other PASSHE schools. I've had many friends and teacher colleagues who have gone to Lock Haven and Mansfield and they are all successful. They tend to understand more about the kids they will teach.”
Since Derrick was director of recruitment, he has made several trips to his alma mater as well as the Lock Haven and Mansfield locations that make up the Commonwealth University triad, and says he has hired several grads “on the spot” pending board approval.
“They are extremely personable and prepared,” said Derrick, who has had to look to older candidates who have chosen teaching as a second career in light of the growing need for teachers in larger regional school districts like Allentown, Emmaus, East Penn, Bethlehem, and Parkland. Even as a second career, Derrick says that the PASSHE grads stand out.
“I want everyone to know that even though you didn’t go to school to be a teacher, there are easy pathways to becoming a teacher as a second career if you have a bachelor’s degree,” explained Derrick. “If you’re good with students and have a degree, you can get your certification while teaching. We get a lot of folks who earned their original bachelors from the state system.”
Derrick says that one of the things about teaching that salaries or benefits can’t quantify is the fact that one can see the improvement and growth in the students, especially in high-poverty districts where the rewards can significantly outweigh the challenges. He says that here, too, PASSHE grads are typically better at weathering what is usually a tough first year for most teachers.
“You can make those connections and make a difference,” says Derrick. “Positive student-staff relationship and good student rapport; you can see it in real-time. [Bloom and PASSHE grads] understand that challenge and are prepared for the rough patches. They are much more adaptable.”
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