“Necessity is the mother of invention.” –Plato
For Erin Tobin, Founder and CEO of OneTeacher in Phoenix, AZ, Plato’s words could not be more true. Although Arizona often gets a bad rap education-wise, Tobin knew of many Title I schools doing excellent work with students in Phoenix. After teaching for several years and then leading a teacher prep program in Phoenix, Tobin began to perceive the issues in Phoenix’s education system a bit differently. “In many cases, we have schools that provide exceptional professional development and support to teachers, but these schools can’t find the extraordinary teachers they need to bring their mission and vision to fruition,” notes Tobin. Because of this, Tobin founded OneTeacher, an organization that partners with Title I schools in Phoenix, like Western School of Science and Technology: A Challenge Foundation Academy, to match them with amazing and aspiring educators.
Much like OneTeacher, Western: CFA was born out of a significant community need. Peter Boyle, Western: CFA’s Founding School Director, had previously worked at an elementary/middle school in the Maryvale community of West Phoenix that was achieving great outcomes with students. Mr. Boyle notes that students made two or more academic years of growth in just one year, and the school community worked diligently to support the neighborhood through community service and other opportunities. However, when students were ready to promote from 8th grade, parents inquired about which school their children should attend for high school to continue the growth made in middle school. Unfortunately, Mr. Boyle and his team didn’t have a strong recommendation. Says Mr. Boyle, “there are 75,000 kids in West Phoenix, and not a single A-rated high school to support children and families.” Seeing such a critical need in Maryvale, Mr. Boyle became the planning founder and principal of Western: CFA, a middle and high school that serves the students and families he cares so deeply about.
Delivering on the promises Mr. Boyle made to his community doesn’t come without its challenges. His biggest challenge is finding excellent teachers. Mr. Boyle notes, “There’s a shortage of teachers, an even more severe shortage of great teachers, plus those who would thrive in our community and have a passion for our mission and vision. Not having the great people we need hinders our ability to deliver on our mission and vision and do really great things in the neighborhood.” This is why Mr. Boyle has chosen to partner with OneTeacher. OneTeacher expands the pool of teachers from which to choose and vets the individuals that Mr. Boyle is ultimately bringing to the second round of interviews. “Every time you add an additional qualification, the pool gets smaller. You want folks that have the same mission, vision, values, and program orientation towards believing the same things we do about what it takes for all students to be successful– and the chops to make it happen in the classroom,” says Mr. Boyle.
Because the team at OneTeacher has a deep understanding of what Mr. Boyle is looking for, they can expand the talent pool and root out the mismatches, saving Western: CFA time and money. “You can put up a job posting and have 70 folks respond within the first 24 hours, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be a fit. OneTeacher ensures that as candidates get further along in the process, they’ll be a fit–otherwise you’re just shooting in the dark and hoping you’ll land on a good fit,” notes Mr.Boyle. And because everyone on the OneTeacher team is a former educator, they understand education in a way that recruiters in the talent field may not.
Something else that has made the partnership between Western: CFA and OneTeacher so successful is the OneTeacher team’s responsiveness to the school’s needs. Mr. Boyle notes, “When we’ve identified areas for improvement, OneTeacher has been really willing to work on that, and that’s not always something you see from folks in the talent space. OneTeacher has been very adaptive to our changing circumstances.”
As a result of a carefully refined process, OneTeacher was able to connect Erika Houston, a secondary English teacher, to the team at Western: CFA. In her first year at Western: CFA, Ms. Houston was named Rookie Teacher of the Year because of her very clear achievement orientation and strong student outcomes. Using her previous teaching experience and her understanding of Western: CFA’s context, she increased the passing rate for the AP English exam by 30%. Mr. Boyle appreciates that, “whenever you go into her classroom, there’s a palpable sense of urgency, a sense that whatever they’re reading or writing today matters and it’s going to help each individual student in their goals, which helps the school reach our goals.” Now in her second year at Western: CFA, Ms.Houston is poised to make even greater gains with her students. Teachers like Ms. Houston are what makes the partnership between Western: CFA and OneTeacher worthwhile. Although cost is always a factor in any strategic decision, Mr. Boyle knows, “there are great teachers out there, and not having them in our building costs way more from mission and academic perspectives than what a placement fee would be.”
In order to improve outcomes for students in low income communities, having strong and aligned teachers like Ms. Houston is a necessity, and with the help of the OneTeacher team, it can also be a reality. If you need great teachers on your campus, let the matchmakers at OneTeacher help! Contact us today to learn how we can meet your hiring needs.