Millikin student-teachers practice interview skills, maximize networking opportunities
On Feb. 22, more than 40 future educators and nearly a dozen regional school district representatives took part in the Millikin University School of Education's annual Interview Bootcamp event. Led by Dr. Chris Cunnings, interim director of the School of Education, the event pairs Millikin student-teachers with education alumni to practice interview skills, provide feedback and develop professional networks among regional school districts.
"It brings back Millikin education alumni who want to give back their time to help our student teachers prepare for job interviews and to help them succeed in their first year in the classroom," said Dr. Cunnings, who also mentioned that the interview bootcamp was, to his knowledge, fairly unique to Millikin. With education alumni from across the state attending the bootcamp, Millikin students were exposed to a variety of perspectives, including smaller and larger school districts, along with rural, urban and suburban school districts.
Following a panel discussion covering topics such as common challenges in the first year of teaching, common considerations for choosing districts and the use of social media for teachers, student-teachers were divided into small groups for 15-minute interview sessions with visiting administrators, superintendents and principals.
In previous years, interviews were typically held one-on-one between students and alumni, but Dr. Cunnings mentioned that for this year's event, they changed how the interviews were conducted to accommodate the large number of student-teachers. "Because of the sheer number of student-teachers here at Millikin, we've paired them into small groups and the dynamics have been fascinating," he said. "It's a great way to maximize the networking opportunities."
Millikin students planning to enter the teaching profession found the Interview Bootcamp to be greatly beneficial to their preparations. Maddie Erdmann, a senior majoring in early childhood education with an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement, said the event helped her better understand how interview processes differ in the education field.
"The administrators and superintendents who came today have been helpful with giving feedback on what they are looking for when interviewing, along with questions to highlight and the timespan for answering questions," Maddie remarked.
Erdmann, along with Megan Trusky, a senior math education major, agreed that Millikin has exceptionally prepared them for careers in education.
"I have been in an internship every single semester at Millikin, starting the first semester of my first year. I've been in both middle and high schools all around the area," Trusky, who plans to teach middle and secondary mathematics, explained. Erdmann said that she has also been involved in internships every semester at Millikin, at locations including Dennis Lab School, Baby TALK Early Head Start and Pershing Early Learning Center.
Although the students participate in mock interviews, the professional networks developed at the event can potentially lead to further interviews and even job offers. "It's all about networking. A lot of administrative alumni shared that either directly after this event or even months afterward, they were hired from someone they met at this event," Dr. Cunnings said. "Some of these student-teachers may take jobs at these school districts in the future."
Dr. Chris Cunnings
The willingness of alumni to readily return to their alma mater to help future teachers is, to Dr. Cunnings, what makes the event unique and beneficial to Millikin students. "It's not just about getting your degree from Millikin and then going out into the world. We want to establish lifetime relationships with these graduates," he said, mentioning that the value Millikin places on their alumni connections and the Interview Bootcamp helped draw him to working in Millikin's School of Education.