California faced teacher shortages long before schools closed due to COVID-19. Seventy-five percent of the state's school districts say there are not enough qualified teachers to meet student needs according to the Palo Alto-based Learning Policy Institute.
To help districts fill the gap, the state turned to Silicon Valley for inspiration.
"Think about Facebook and Match.com, and that’s our platform," said Donna Glassman-Sommer, executive director of the California Center on Teaching Careers. The center, which is housed in the Tulare County Office of Education, introduced virtual teacher job fairs in 2018 to connect California school districts to candidates around the world.
According to Glassman-Sommer, the virtual fairs work just like the real thing. "It’s almost like a gaming platform and you see live avatars walking around, you have options just like you would at a regular fair," she said.
Last year, virtual job fairs helped place more than 1,400 newly hired teachers in California, a figure expected to rise as more districts take their recruitment efforts online.