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Director's Dispatch: Recruiting Great Teachers

To be a great school, you need great teachers. The most important thing we do as administrators is hiring talented teachers. 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. 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 12 to 20 teachers resign. Also, due to enrollment growth and new educational programs, we have added two to five positions per year. Administrators have already started interviewing and hiring teachers for the 2020-2021 school year. Sixteen teachers have already notified us that this will be their last year at ISD. To attract and hire the best possible teachers, we need to start early. Hiring teachers is the most critical thing administrators do at a school, so we devote a significant amount of time to the process.

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.

We interview candidates both virtually and in person at job fairs. About half the teachers are hired through virtual interviews using Skype or Zoom, while the other half at job fairs in major cities around the world. ISD administrators will attend job fairs in Dubai, Bangkok, London, and Boston, where we can have in-person interviews with a large number of candidates. Applicants are interviewed at least three times by multiple administrators. Candidates are required to have 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’s Degree, eight years of teaching experience, experience working internationally, and experience teaching in the International Baccalaureate Program. Before looking abroad, 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 meets our criteria. Therefore, 80% of teachers need to be overseas-hires. In recent years, we have been successful in our recruiting. Eighty percent of the teachers have a Master’s degree or higher, 70% have ten years of teaching experience, and over 70% have experience in the International Baccalaureate Program.

The Board and Administration continue to emphasize hiring a diverse faculty. It is important for students to have teachers who share similar cultural backgrounds. At the Board’s request, the Administration is identifying new candidate pools rather than merely relying on the traditional recruitment agencies. This work has already produced results as 25% of all teachers interviewed so far this year have been teachers of color.

Our school’s reputation has grown as former ISD families, and teachers have shared their positives experiences at ISD and living in Dakar. The Board’s decision to add the IB Primary Years Program (PYP) and the Middle Years Program (MYP), combined with the students’ success in the IB Diploma Program, has helped increase the number of applications we receive. Despite only posting a limited number of vacancies, we have received almost 300 applications. Last year, we had over 1,000 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.

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