June 04, 2020

20th annual Metro Educator Fair pivots to hybrid format, provides candidates with invaluable networking experience in uncertain times

The entire in-person 20th annual Metro Educator Fair (MEF) was transformed into a hybrid in-person/online experience event virtually overnight.

On March 13, 2020, as COVID-19 was just reaching Oregon and closures, cancelations, and uncertainty were becoming the new norm, Lewis & Clark Graduate of School of Education and Counseling delivered its annual networking and recruiting event for educators, as scheduled yet predominantly via Zoom. Thanks to early safety measures and a quick response to the rapidly changing health and safety recommendations, the entire in-person 20th annual Metro Educator Fair (MEF) was transformed into a hybrid in-person/online experience event virtually overnight.

Just two weeks before the fair was scheduled to take place, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) had announced the state’s first presumptive case of COVID-19. On March 8, 2020, state agencies issued COVID-19 guidance to Oregon schools and universities to address the spread of COVID-19. At that time health officials recommended canceling large events and public gatherings with over 250 attendees in both Oregon and Washington, however statewide and CDC guidance regarding smaller events and social distancing was not yet available.

“The graduate school chose to be cautious at that early stage in the pandemic, ensuring students’ safety while still providing them with the networking support and career services that were crucial at that time in their academic careers,” said Sharon Chinn, MA ’91, Director of Educational Career, Licensing, and Accreditation Services and organizer of the annual fair. “Thanks to the exceptional logistical and IT expertise of Gena Perrine, the graduate school’s Director of Finance and Operations, and Patti Palczewska, the graduate school’s Educational Technology Specialist, we were able to quickly convert the entirely in-person Metro Educator Fair into a hybrid in-person/online event.”

Both attending school districts and student candidates had the option to choose to participate in the way they felt most comfortable–either in-person or online. All of the school districts chose to participate remotely, while candidates decided to join using both formats. Faculty and staff members facilitated interactions between candidates and districts in the classroom assigned to the school district.

The MEF serves as a crucial networking and recruiting event for both school districts from roughly South West Washington down to South Oregon, as well as Lewis & Clark candidates from teacher education, school counseling, and school psychology. For students, the goal is for them to connect with as many people and school districts as possible. For school districts, in particular for human resources directors and staff, it serves as an opportunity to guide students through conversations and processes as they prepare for the larger Oregon Professional Educator Fair (OPEF) that would normally happen in the first week of April*.

Chinn humbly shares that the biggest take away from this year’s MEF is “that people are resilient, patient, and willing to adapt quickly to changing environments.”

*With the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation in Oregon and Governor Kate Brown’s suspension of group gatherings, the scheduled OPEF for April 7 and April 8, 2020 was canceled, leaving the Metro Educator Fair as the only networking and recruiting event in which students participated during the spring.