At Higher Ground Education, diversifying program offerings to secure continuity of education and employment is top priority.
Returning to the classroom during the disruption caused by the pandemic has been challenging for both parents and teachers. Each family must evaluate their own risk tolerance in balance with the financial, logistical and emotional needs unique to their dynamic. At Higher Ground Education, which runs the world’s largest dedicated network of Montessori schools, diversifying program offerings to secure continuity of education for children and continuity of employment for educators became top priority.
Since March 2020, Higher Ground Education has tripled its programmatic offerings for families and educators, generating a record amount of career opportunities across its Guidepost Montessori and Academy of Thought and Industry (ATI) schools. Heading into September, the team is hiring at a pace of one teacher each day. Interest in Guidepost Montessori and ATI has skyrocketed among families in communities everywhere, and teachers share an interest in pursuing alternative paths that deliver meaningful experiences for both children and their own professional development.
Kaitlynn Lim, Talent Specialist with Higher Ground Education, has been on the frontlines of adapting to the abrupt shift COVID-19 has caused within the education industry. Here are her thoughts and tips for educators who want to safely get back to the classroom this schoolyear, as well as opportunities for joining the international Montessori movement:
1. How has COVID changed what we look for when interviewing candidates, and how has it changed what opportunities we have to offer?
Not a lot has changed in the sense of what we look for – the main attributes we look for are educators who are excited and passionate about their field, and who are also flexible. Post-COVID, those traits are even more important. Guidepost Montessori’s new Virtual School is growing rapidly, and so that is where a lot of our hiring is currently focused. We are in the process of training new teachers, and we need trained Montessorians who are eager and capable of adapting to working remotely. Virtual school is not the only opportunity we are offering, though. We have grown from 40 brick-and-mortar schools to 70 in a year’s time, which means we are continuing to hire for in-person learning. We are also hiring for Guidepost at Home, a year-old program that has expanded nationwide and is another alternative path like Virtual School. Guidepost at Home matches families with experienced early childhood nannies and educators in-home, and you don’t have to have Montessori training to start because we provide that internally!
2. Speaking of Montessori-specific training, how much of an obstacle is it if educators don’t have that training?
Higher Ground Education was founded with the mission of mainstreaming and modernizing the international Montessori movement, and so not only does this entail making high-quality Montessori programming more accessible for families, but it also means making high-quality teacher-training more approachable. The Prepared Montessorian Institute, which is internationally accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education, is one of our sister organizations that helps educators advance their careers and allows us to promote from within. While some higher-level positions, such as Lead Guide, do require that training, we are unique in that we can hire educators new to Montessori and financially sponsor them to become Montessori certified. Again, if you are passionate about education, that is the most important thing we look for!
3. What are educators most frequently looking for with a return to school this year, and how are we able to answer their top questions and needs?
Educators are rightfully concerned about health and safety, particularly around in-person learning. Related to that, candidates want to ultimately join a team where they are fully supported with respect to the level of flexibility being asked of them today. This is where joining a global school network has its benefits. While our campus teams are locally run, built upon a culture of strong community, they are not left alone to figure out today’s health and safety protocols nor are they left alone to navigate the logistical switch to virtual. We have a whole compliance team dedicated to supporting schools on navigating health and safety regulations, and we also have a whole team dedicated to Virtual School. Supporting school teams with backend resources helps them focus on what they love – working with students!
4. Any tips for navigating interviews?
With the increasing opportunity to work remotely, and to potentially lead virtual classrooms, consider that the interview will be done virtually, too! It’s important to present yourself professionally during a virtual interview and showcase your confidence and capability in navigating a platform like Zoom. You don’t have to come with previous virtual school experience but being tech-savvy helps. Overall, the same tips that are true for a face-to-face interview still apply virtually – with the big one being to always do your research ahead of time so that you are familiar with our organization and mission.
Career opportunity questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.