human capital

Once-hopeful teachers grapple with a sudden kink in their plans

Among those who could be most affected by the new teacher hiring freeze are teachers who haven’t yet set foot inside a city classroom.

The group includes nearly 1,000 college seniors, recent graduates, and career-changers who had been accepted to Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows programs, which select and train uncertified teachers and then help them find positions at city schools. It also includes potentially hundreds of other experienced teachers with unofficial job offers for the fall in hand, at least two of whom have already severed current jobs and a lease in preparation for the move.

All of their plans to teach at city schools in the fall were thrown into question yesterday when school officials announced that principals will have to give preference to teachers who are already on the public school system’s payroll when hiring from now on. School officials are encouraging these teachers to hold out hope for finding a spot, but the teachers say they are skeptical.

Teach For America and Teaching Fellows participants are still being invited to train this summer, but unlike in the past, they are not being guaranteed a paycheck if they don’t land a job in a school. School officials are also telling experienced teachers who had been promised places at schools for the fall to hold out hope, but at least one such teacher said yesterday that he feels left in the lurch.

Chris Timberlake, a fourth-grade teacher in Hampton, Va., thought until last night that he had nailed down plans to begin teaching in the city this fall, along with his wife, who is also a teacher. “We had always wanted to move to the big city,” Timberlake told me. “We wanted to be the change agents, and this was the year we were going to do it.”

After applying to teach in the city, Timberlake and his wife were both accepted into a new program, called TRQ Select, that was meant to create a pool of new teacher candidates that have the Department of Education’s stamp of approval. School officials kept them in the loop about openings, and Timberlake said the department even covered plane fare to fly his wife, a highly coveted earth science teacher, into the city to visit schools.

Last Friday, Timberlake was offered what he described as the teaching job of his dreams, a position at PS 84 in Queens, where in addition to his regular teaching responsibilities, he would start up a theater program. His wife also got a job offer last week, at a Brooklyn high school that she loved the first time she visited, he said. On Monday, they signed resignation letters at their current schools and let their landlord know they would be leaving their apartment this summer. Last night, they learned about the hiring freeze and saw their plans fall apart.

In the last few months, Timberlake said, he and his wife have shelled out well over $1,000 each to take three tests leading to New York State certification, get fingerprinted by the DOE, apply for their teaching licenses, and drop everything to fly to the city when principals offered them interviews.

“It’s a lot of grief, money, and time that feels like it’s been wasted,” he said. “Now I don’t know what we’ll do. I just don’t know.”

School officials told me that Timberlake and his wife shouldn’t have thought they had jobs locked up, even before the hiring restrictions were announced. “No formal offers should have been made,” said Ann Forte, a schools spokeswoman. Forte said the department requires applicants to be processed centrally before they can be added to a school’s payroll, and it is too early in the year for that to happen.

Timberlake said that when he finally spoke to someone in the department’s human resources office late today, he was told that his best bet is to hunt for positions at new schools, which are still permitted to hire up to 50% of their teachers from outside the system, and to stay in touch with the principals who had expressed interest in hiring him. When the restriction are lifted, those principals could hire him, Timberlake said he was told. “That is, if they haven’t already filled the position with someone from the pool” of existing teachers, he said.

The advice he got was similar to that given yesterday to people who have been offered Teaching Fellows positions. In a letter sent yesterday to accepted applicants, which I obtained, the head of the Teaching Fellows program encouraged recipients not to stop looking for a job in the city schools.

“These restrictions do not impede your ability to continue to network with school hiring representatives and pursue vacancies that may become available at a later date,” Bernstein wrote.

Both Teach for America and the Teaching Fellows program accepted about half as many applicants as they did last year, according to Larry Becker, the DOE’s top human resources executive. Teach for America is anticipating a cohort of 250 new teachers, he said, down from 500 this year and also from the 350 that TFA told alumni in January that it would hire this year. The Teaching Fellows program is set to have a cohort of 700, down from 1,400 this year.

Last fall, changing human capital conditions left a small number of new Teaching Fellows being paid by the DOE, but without positions at the end of the calendar year. It took a legal fight before the department could get them off its payroll. That problem will not be allowed to reoccur this year, Becker said yesterday, because the department will not start paying Teaching Fellows until they land positions in schools. For those whom the hiring restrictions prevent from getting a job, Becker said, “We will have a small program that extends through the fall where we keep them occupied.” One possibility, he said, is that unhired Teaching Fellows might student-teach for “some financial remuneration.”

Instructions for teacher hopefuls are posted now on TeachNYC, the department’s hiring Web site. The full letter sent yesterday to accepted Teaching Fellows is below.

CLARIFICATION: The DOE does not fly prospective teachers to the city, as Christopher Timberlake said his wife was, a DOE spokeswoman told me. The spokeswoman, Ann Forte, said the department invites TRQ Select candidates to the city but does not pay their way, except by giving them one-day Metrocards so they can visit schools during their stay. 

We hope you have taken the opportunity over the last few days to review the recently published terms of the June 2009 Fellowship. If you have not done so already, we encourage you to complete enrollment in the Fellowship by electronically signing the Fellow Commitment Form on the ‘Home’ tab of your My NYCTF page. I am writing today with important information about becoming a Department of Education employee this coming school year.

As you may have heard, Chancellor Joel Klein announced today that due to likely budget reductions principals must follow new guidelines when hiring teachers for the 2009-2010 school year. Under these guidelines, at this time principals can only fill vacancies with teachers who are currently employed by the Department of Education. (There are some immediate exceptions to these hiring restrictions: Principals may consider new candidates for vacancies in bilingual special education and for up to half of the vacancies in schools that are opening this year or have opened in the last two years.) As budgets are finalized over the summer, these hiring restrictions will be lifted for those subject areas and geographic districts where the need to fill vacancies is not being met by the existing workforce. The primary implication of this policy is that new teachers cannot be formally hired into any school-level vacancy unless and until the restrictions are lifted.

We want to reassure you that these hiring guidelines do not affect your status in the Fellowship, nor do they change the hiring process and timeline previously communicated to you. More specifically:

Your acceptance into the Fellowship remains valid and there is no change to your status in the June training cohort, your subject assignment, or borough assignment.

In anticipation of budget reductions and a consequent reduced hiring need, we have significantly limited the size and subject areas of the June 2009 cohort as compared to prior years.

Accepted Fellows have been assigned only to those subject areas and geographic locations with the highest projected vacancies. These are the areas where we anticipate there will still be a need for new teachers and where hiring restrictions are likely to be lifted.

These guidelines limit the early hiring of new teachers; however, in general, a later hiring timeline for new teachers is consistent with past trends. While we believe most Fellows will secure a position at the start of the school year, we have created an opportunity for individuals without positions in September to remain in the Fellowship through the fall term.

As the Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality is helping manage the implementation and targeted lifting of the hiring guidelines, you will have access to real-time information regarding when and where principals can consider new hires.

These restrictions do not impede your ability to continue to network with school hiring representatives and pursue vacancies that may become available at a later date. The Placement Support team will continue to facilitate school-based interviews and you may be invited to networking events. We also encourage you to begin networking with Fellows and connecting with schools. Toward that end, we have recently posted several resources under the ‘Job Search’ tab on My NYCTF, including the Job Search Action Plan, which will keep you on track as you begin to research positions and schools. For more information about the job search process and hiring landscape please refer to the Guide to Becoming a Department of Education Employee.

If you have any questions about the job search or hiring restrictions, please do not hesitate to contact our placement support team at or 718.935.4147.

I thank you again for your continued commitment and interest in the Fellowship and look forward to welcoming you in person on June 15th.


Vicki Bernstein
Executive Director, Office of Teacher Recruitment & Quality

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”