With eight weeks left in the school year, school district leaders are building next year’s budget, and that means getting a jump on hiring the best new teachers available.

It’s not unusual for the Killeen Independent School District to hire about 400 teachers to start a new school year, and that’s about how many applicants district leaders expected during a teacher job fair Saturday at Harker Heights High School.

Already registered for the event, prospective teachers stepped through the high school cafeteria where rows of tables represented KISD’s 52 schools.

While the district did not offer jobs on the spot, chief human resources officer Steve Cook said the fair jump-starts the hiring process, allowing campus principals to recommend candidates for further screening.

Superintendent John Craft thanked the principals and other campus administrators and teachers for putting in time on the weekend to greet potential hirees, emphasizing the importance of hiring the best.

“So much is contingent on the strength of the team,” Craft said, emphasizing the opportunity to meet with applicants excited to make a difference in the lives of children. “We want to get the best for our students.”

Texas A&M University-Central Texas student Shala Gee said she would receive her teacher certification in June and was excited to start her job search.

The military spouse and mother said she has a criminal justice degree and she wanted to combine her education with a love of literature. She said she envisioned teaching English and bringing sensitivity to at-risk students.

Alicia Taitano, a home school mom in Killeen, said she wanted to reach out to families as a teacher.

“It’s about children,” aid Taitano, who is a substitute teacher in KISD. “They are our future.”

Justin Hesterly, a two-year elementary teacher in school districts south of Houston, said he was looking for a more stable situation. “I like meeting new people and exploring new challenges. A lot of us are in the same situation. We want to find a stable place to stay and grow.”

He said he currently teaches social studies and science at the elementary level.

“I like it,” he said. “I like teaching them skills they can use in the job force and I like giving them direction.”

Alicia Shepherd, once a teacher on the mission field, was a secretary at a Killeen elementary school and a substitute teacher and said she has raised her children and is ready to make teaching a career.

“At Mountain View, it all clicked,” she said in reference to her experience as a secretary. “I’ve loved my experience here. I love the diversity. This is where I want to be.”

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