In the following pages, Catalyst shares the stories of eight new teachers as they decide where to take their first jobs. Writer Grant Pick selected them from 50 he met at job fairs last winter and spring or through the Teacher Recruitment Initiative, a joint venture of the Chicago Public Schools and the non-profit Financial Research and Advisory Committee. The thumb sketches indicate their job decisions with the Chicago Public Schools.

Though she grew up in Maplewood, N.J., 20 minutes from New York City, 22-year-old Rachel Goldner is totally enamored with Chicago. “Every time I go biking along the beach to Navy Pier, I think, I just love the city,” she says. “New York is exhausting. Chicago is more manageable, and it moves. And a lot of my friends have moved to Chicago.”

Goldner, the daughter of a school-supply company owner and a former preschool teacher, also voices a desire to serve the disadvantaged. “Just because kids are in poverty doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get a good education,” says Goldner. “Say I have a bleeding heart.”

In May, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a concentration in elementary education. She relocated to Chicago, took a summer job with a Jewish Community Center day camp in Northbrook and applied to the Chicago Public Schools through the TRI website.

By early June, Goldner, disappointed at not having heard from Chicago, submitted applications to city and suburban preschools and to the Glenview and Evanston public schools. She had what she terms “a great interview” with a committee at Burke School on the South Side, but never heard back. “As a kid out of college, I can’t wait to get placed,” she said in late July, her frustration mounting.

A feeler for a 2nd-grade position in Chicago arrived a week before school was to start. But the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center on the Northwest Side had already pieced together a job for Goldner from openings at its preschool, after-school program and the Northbrook day camp. Goldner wasn’t frightened off by the recent shootings at the recent JCC in Los Angeles: “There’s security everywhere at Horwich. Plus, it [physical danger] can’t be any worse than the public schools.” Her $23,500 salary amounted to “a huge cutback” from what she’d been expecting, but her parents offered to help bridge the gap.

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