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Director's Dispatch: Recruiting Great Teachers

To be a great school, you need great teachers. Hiring talented teachers is the most important thing we do as administrators.  The number of international schools has doubled in the past ten years and the total number of teacher positions in these schools has tripled.  These increases have made the recruiting of new staff very competitive.  Teachers and administrators can apply to international schools all around the world. In order to hire the best available faculty, we need to have a competitive compensation package, start the recruiting process as early as possible, devote a significant amount of time building relationships with prospective teachers, and have an educational program and vision that excites people.

Overseas-hire teachers stay at ISD, on average, four years.  In a given year, we will have anywhere from 10 to 20 teachers resign. There will be a good number of vacancies this year as a good number of our teachers have been at ISD for four or five years and we had a low number of teachers resign last year. At this point, 15 staff members have informed the administration that they will not return for next year.  I anticipate another three to five vacancies.

The top three reasons teachers accept an employment offer at an international school are the compensation package, the school administration, and the school’s reputation.  The location of the international school is one of the least important factors. To determine the competitiveness of our compensation package, we benchmark our compensation with 15 of the top schools in Africa as well as leading schools in the Middle East. This data is shared with the Board of Trustees as they consider the annual budget for the next year including any improvements to the educators’ compensation.

Recruiting teachers for the next school starts earlier and earlier. When I first started hiring for ISD five years ago, we started interviewing in earnest in January. Now, the hiring season begins in October.  To help us get started as soon as possible, we ask teachers to indicate whether they plan on returning to ISD or not by mid-October. Next week, I have 18 interviews scheduled by Skype.  In addition, to interviewing candidates virtually, the principals and I will attend job fairs in Dubai, Bangkok, London and Boston where we can have in-person interviews with a larger number of candidates.  Applicants are interviewed at least three times by multiple administrators.  Candidates are required to have at least three confidential written references, which are verified with phone calls.  This process can take a great deal of time, but it has proven to be successful in finding strong teachers who are a good fit for ISD.

ISD’s preferred hiring criteria is a Masters Degree, five years teaching experience, experience working internationally, and experience teaching in the International Baccalaureate Program. Before looking internationally, we will interview candidates who currently live in or will be moving to Dakar.  Unfortunately, there are a limited number of applicants who live in Dakar who meet our criteria. Therefore, 85% of the teachers need to be overseas-hires. In recent years, we have been successful in our recruiting. Eighty percent of the teachers have a Master degree or higher and 70% have ten years of teaching experience.

Our school’s reputation has grown over the past three years as former ISD families and teachers have shared their positives experiences at ISD and living in Dakar.  The Board’s decision to move to the IB Primary Years Program and Middle Years Program, combined with the students’ success in the IB Diploma Program has helped increase the number of applications we receive. In the week since our first set of openings were posted on two recruiting websites, we have received 200 applications. Our goal is to build a special school. We are looking for teachers and administrators who want to help create and develop programs.  For the right candidate, ISD presents an exciting opportunity.

Parents have the opportunity to participate in the interviews for the administrative positions.  A committee of teachers, parents, and students will interview the semi-finalists for the Activities/Athletic Director position and the Elementary Assistant Principal position.  These interviews will take place on one day during the week of November 12. If you can be available for one day during that week and would like to be a part of the interview committee, please send me an email (  We will have one or two parents on both committees.

The teachers at ISD do much more than teach. They challenge students to achieve more and dream bigger. They set the tone for a supportive, open-minded, and thoughtful community. They are with students every day, shaping their learning and guiding their development. As ISD grows as a school, it is imperative we continue to bring in teachers whose philosophies are aligned with our own and who are dedicated to bringing our school to the next level.

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