Expert Bio: Charles Wakefield

Location:
Omaha, NE
Organization:
Omaha Public Schools
Position:
Chief Human Resources Officer
Socials:

It takes a village to raise a child, so someone who values working as a team is important.

A background in teaching helped to shape Charles Wakefield's current job as Chief Human Resources Officer at Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. His job recruiting, hiring, and handling employment matters for OPS teachers means he knows a thing or two about what makes a good teacher. Read on for his hiring advice, how to prepare for an interview, and his take on the importance of gaining experience with kids early on.

Check out the OPS Careers page for information on potential positions available.

What is your career background? How did you end up in teacher recruiting/hiring?

I was raised in South Kansas. I started out by earning a business degree, but eventually became a teacher and taught at Wichita Public Schools. I then spent 10 years as a middle school principal before landing at Omaha Public Schools.

What kind of tasks do you perform day-to-day?

HR at Omaha Public Schools deals with recruiting, hiring, employee relations, and more. We also take care of teacher evaluations and handle complaints, worker’s compensations claims, and things of that nature.

What do you look for in a potential hire?

Every building needs something slightly different, so we take care to find the right fit. There is no “perfect teacher” profile, we just look for someone who has a love of kids and a love of education.

For new teachers, is there anything they can or should do to stand out? Anything they can be doing while still in school?

Even if it’s your first teaching job out of school, you must have some experience with children. When we see candidates with zero experience with kids, that’s a concern. You need to work with children in some capacity. Tutor, volunteer, become a camp counselor…it shows us that you want to work with kids and can handle the difficult aspects of the job. These are things a future teacher can be doing in high school and college.

There is no “perfect teacher” profile, we just look for someone who has a love of kids and a love of education.

In your opinion, what makes a good teacher?

Loving students – someone who truly cares about kids. A good teacher is flexible and resilient. Every teacher is going to have a bad day, but it’s about bouncing back. Also, a teacher can never stop learning, they must always strive to grow and get better. It takes a village to raise a child, so someone who values working as a team is important.

Are there any pitfalls that teachers should try to avoid in the hiring process?

We expect teachers to do some research about the school and the district. Brush up on statistics like the poverty rate. Show that you can hold the job – your appearance, showing up on time, etc. is a great way to convey this. When a principal sees you at an interview, they know that they are seeing you at your best, so make sure you rise to the occasion.

How can candidates best prepare for an interview with Omaha Public Schools?

Understand the size and scope of the district. Omaha has numerous districts, so know where you are applying. Sell your skills working with kids. We look for things like classroom management – what is your plan for how you are going to run things?

Any other advice you have for those interested in teaching as a profession?

Spend time with kids. Interact with them. Work at a daycare or other child-centered facility to gain experience. It’s a better training ground than a classroom could be. Don’t be afraid of schools based on reputation, those were some of my best teaching experiences.

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