Posted: May 9, 2012 9:53 AM by Robin O'Day (KPAX News)
Updated: May 10, 2012 8:06 AM
MISSOULA- Back in the late 1800's thousands of people flocked to Alaska in search of gold.
Now, a steady handful of recent graduates from the College of Education at the University of Montana are making the same trek north, but instead of gold, they're looking for teaching jobs.
The trend is so catchy that there is now a student-teacher program offered in Alaska for University of Montana students, prompting reporter Robin O'Day to go on Special Assignment to find out if a Missoula couple can strike the teaching mother-lode.
"I'm more optimistic about going to Alaska going to the career fair and meeting these educators face to face, than I am about applying for jobs in Montana."
Josh Tone graduated with a teaching degree from the UM one year ago and by now he hoped he'd be wiping down his classroom white board and not wiping down tables at a local restaurant.
"I have faith in teaching, I have faith in teachers, I don't have faith that I'm going to be given the opportunity because of the competition," Josh said.
He isn't alone when it comes to finding a job as a teacher in Montana as a record number of education students are graduating from UM this year and emerging on the scene in hopes of landing a job.
Josh decided to apply in his hometown of Glasgow, in a place where both of his parents taught. He didn't even get an interview with the principal telling him they usually they get about two applicants for an opening, but this year they received 20.
"Incredibly, incredibly discouraging for me because of the fact that I really thought that I had a chance, due to my connections, due to my roots, due to the fact that I'm a Montana native, due to my education, due to my experience as a teacher. Although it is limited, it's been positive and I feel like I've excelled in it," Josh told us.
He'd hit his breaking point and his fiancé Jamie was approaching hers after she was offered to teach in Arlee for $8 an hour, so Josh and Jamie decided to take a leap of faith, heading from Montana to Alaska.
"I hope that they see that we're serious about coming up there and give us a job," Jamie said.
College of Education and Human Sciences statistics show that 10% of recent education grads are saying I've got to go elsewhere to teach, which means talented young teacher are leaving the state to find work elsewhere.
"And leaving Montana is going to be heartbreaking for me. I love this state, it's my home. I would love to stay if we could, but it's not going to happen, not without a small miracle," Josh commented.
The chances of Josh and Jamie being offered a job on the spot at the Anchorage Educator Expo are fairly high because they're a couple. Potential employers know they'll be less stir crazy in Alaska than if they were alone and they can lodge together, saving the school money.
So with fingers crossed and bags packed, the Tone's are ready to head north and seal the deal.
"If I'm given the opportunity, I won't let whoever hires me down," Josh promised.
We'll let you know whether Josh and Jamie struck teaching gold in Alaska, or if they got a breakthrough in Montana, during the Wednesday 10:00 News on Montana's News Station.