Michael Reiss wants to teach.
So determined is the Yale graduate to find a place in a classroom that he drove four hours from New Haven, Conn., to this college town in northeastern Pennsylvania to attenda job fair for teachers.
"I've been working eight months, but I haven't been teaching," said Reiss, who recently earned a master's degree in religion along with his teaching certificate. "The market is pretty tight for teaching opportunities in Connecticut."
Reiss, 28, was among several hundred prospective teachers -- recent college graduates, laid-off educators and others looking to switch careers -- who spent most of the day waiting in long lines to talk to school recruiters.
It is a scene played out again and again as Carroll recruiters, like others from neighboring school districts across the country, make the rounds among the major and better-known universities looking for teachers to fill vacancies and new positions.
"I really don't know that much about Carroll," Reiss admitted while waiting in line to meet county recruiters. "I heard rumors there were job openings. But I have to tell you that I'm kind of tired of reading newspaper articles about the dire need for teachers and then finding that's it's extremely competitive and there aren't really very many jobs."
At any given moment duringthe six-hour job fair, there are 40 to 50 applicants waiting in two lines to talk to Carroll's recruiters, Harry T. Fogle, assistant supervisor of special education, and Ronald Burinsky, Carrolltowne Elementary principal.
"All I want to hear is that there's an opening," said Marge Pankoa a 35-year-old business education teacher who was laid off from a Pennsylvania school district earlier this year. "I really know nothing about Carroll."
Pankoa came to the job fair from Chestnut Hill, Pa., where she recently landed a "poor-paying" job teaching marketing, because she believed out-of-state districts would haveopenings for business education teachers.
"I heard Carroll is oneof them," she said.
Like Kutztown, the Pittsburgh Educational Recruiting Consortium attracts hundreds of teachers looking for openingsin Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and distant states like California.
Theresa Pikulski managed to grab an application from one of the four Carroll recruiters at the ExpoMart in suburban Pittsburgh, but she wasn't able to schedule an interview because the county's slate was full -- about 50 applicants in a six-hour span.
"They were booked solid," said the 24-year-old from Uniontown, Pa. "I'm interested in Carroll. It's not too far from home. Maryland isa nice place."
Pikulski graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in April with a master's degree in the education of the hearing-impaired. She hopes to be in a classroom this September.
"I'm looking for a job where I'll be happy," she said. "I want to work in a friendly atmosphere and help kids. I want them to learn and to convince them that education is a good thing."
When looking for teachers, Carroll recruiters look for more than just good grades and student teaching experience. They evaluate prospective candidates on personality -- how well they think the applicant will interact with students -- general appearance and knowledge of their subject area.
"If they truly want to be a teacher, that will come out," said Gloria Horneff, aManchester Elementary School assistant principal and recruiter. "Youlook for dedication, enthusiasm and their philosophy of teaching."
For many college graduates from western Pennsylvania, any hopes of teaching in their hometowns have been --ed. Jobs are scarce.
"I would like to get out of Pennsylvania and see what's out there," said David Kaltenbaugh, a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pa. "There aren't a lot of jobs here."
Kaltenbaugh, a 21-year-old Altoona, Pa., native, wants to teach earth and space science at the high school level. He picked up an application and a folder about Carroll schools and the county but couldn't schedule an interview.
After being interviewed at Prince George's and Anne Arundel county schools, Kaltenbaugh speculated that job prospects for science teachers didn't look good.
"I've had a few interviews, but nothing sounded certain," he said. "Carroll County is definitely on my wish list. I've been through Carroll going to an Orioles game. It's not too far from home, and it's close to Baltimore."
Gary Mullenax is looking for jobs for himself and his wife.
He drove two hours from Onancock County, Va., to a recruiting fair at Delaware State College in Dover, Del., where Carroll recruiters traditionally visit in search ofminority teachers.
The 28-year-old, who has a master's degree in piano performance, was one of about a dozen applicants who interviewed with Carroll recruiters during the day-
long fair. Like the majority of applicants, he was white.
"I think I'd like the school system," he said. "I've bypassed that area on trips to Baltimore and Washington."
Mullenax works part time for an Onancock County school district, where he is "something between an aide and a teacher."
He is a monitor for the district's in-school suspension program, supervising students to "make sure they stay out of trouble and do some work."
Both he and his wife taught in a West Virginia school the year before but left because "the situation was real bad. The first opportunity we got to leave, we left."
That opportunity was a full-time elementary music position for his wife, in Radonna, Va.
"They promised more jobs would open up in the music department this coming year," he said. "But now they're talking about cutbacks. They're talking about cutting back on the music program. Everything is totally up in the air."
He hoped to find a full-time job for at least one of them.
Carroll recruiters sometimes visit smaller schools, like Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., and Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Frederick County, that are known for good teacher-education programs.
For prospective teachers, screenings in these settings are more informal and personal, allowing recruiters and prospectiveteachers an opportunity to get a better feel for one another.
Lisa Verrone, an elementary education major at Mount Saint Mary's College, hopes to land a job in her native state of Maryland.
"I want tobe a classroom teacher. The primary grades would be my preference," the Gaithersburg resident said. "I want to work with people who are very interested in what's going on in the school system and in the classroom."
Verrone is a student teacher at a Frederick County school. The 22-year-old planned to apply to schools in Frederick and Montgomery but not Baltimore, which she said was a "little too far."
Following her interview, she gave Carroll high marks.
"The (recruiter) got me really interested in Carroll," she said. "She told me how the county is growing -- that means your job is secure. She asked a lotabout my background and about student teaching. She made me feel like she was interested."
Carroll County schools are the first choiceof Regina Richardson, who will graduate this month from Gettysburg College with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
"They project the image that they want to be very cooperative," said Richardson, a 1987 graduate of Westminster High School. "It's the 'let's work together' attitude and atmosphere that I'm looking for."
Richardson, 21, who is student teaching fifth grade at Eisenhower Elementary School in Gettysburg, wants to teach middle school. The Finksburg resident said one of her middle school teachers prompted her to seek a career in education.
"I had a really good teacher; that's what inspired me," she said.