Millikin student-teachers prepare for job search and build their personal networks at Interview Bootcamp
Big Blue alums and current School of Education students formed bonds and conducted mock interviews during event
by Matthew Flaten
DECATUR – Millikin University’s future teachers gathered in the University Commons on Feb. 21 to participate in the School of Education’s annual Interview Bootcamp event.
About 30 current student-teachers practiced interview skills, asked questions and developed professional networks with 20 alums representing school districts across Central Illinois.
“We have some absolute superstar alumni who graduated from Millikin with education degrees who ascended through the ranks in their schools to become leaders, whether it is principals or superintendents,” Director of the School of Education Dr. Chris Cunnings said. “That they are willing to return to campus voluntarily, to help our students get ready to enter the profession is so valuable.”
Participants took part in a question-and-answer panel discussion with alumni, went through three 15-minute mock interview sessions and picked up resume tips during the Bootcamp. Student-teachers could also get resume headshots taken as well.
“Obviously, it is nerve-racking to come and get interviewed, but throughout the whole process, it was laid back and it settles your nervous as you go and find your career path,” Senior Elementary Education Major Bella Benning said. “It also gives you some experience that you can pick up and take with you. It gives students a chance to get out their jitters.”
At the event, Benning focused on building her network connections with administrators. After graduating this spring, Benning has already accepted a teaching position at Okaw Valley School District in Bethany, Ill., and is excited to take her first steps in her teaching career.
“My superintendent is a Millikin alumnus so I was excited to talk with him about some future things. I also wanted to get to know how I can prove myself professionally by thinking about doing a master’s degree and when would be the best time to do that,” Benning said. “These four years have flown by and I’m excited to begin.”
Dr. Dan Cox ‘98, Superintendent of Schools for Rochester CUSD #3A, assisted in organizing the event with Cunnings and hopes that students will be better skilled to navigate the challenges they will face when beginning their careers.
“Right now in education, one in three teachers leave within the first three to five years of the profession. Eighty-five percent of superintendents will tell you that morale is worse today than it was five years ago. We want to ensure that these young people have a network and set them up for success right out of the gate,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t be here without people that were graduates from Millikin mentoring me and helping me find success. When I talk about the power of the Millikin network, it is to continue that because we care about our school, we care about the profession and we care about people.”
In Illinois, more than 220 practicing school administrators are Millikin alums and the reputation that the School of Education program has developed helps student-teachers as they reach the job market.
“When people hear about Millikin, they associate us with high-quality teachers, strong teacher candidates and success. I think Millikin has built a reputation around Illinois as one of the top-tier teacher education programs that exist,” Cunnings said. “It has helped our sales pitch to students to say, when you come out of this program, you're going to have people around the state say, ‘We want to hire you.’”