LEXINGTON, Kentucky – A recruiting trip to the Philippines turned into a success when officials from a public school system ventured there in late 2007 looking for teachers.
Now, 16 Filipino teachers are working in the Fayette County school system, having been recruited to teach such topics as math, science and special education, subjects in which certified teachers often are hard to find.
The Filipinos arrived last summer and have been on the job since last August.
They are working on visas, sponsored by the county schools, allowing them to stay in the United States up to three years. They have master’s degrees and are certified to teach in Kentucky, said Fayette County School Superintendent Stu Silberman.
The Filipino teachers say the time and expense associated with teaching in the United States are worth it, even if it sometimes means leaving family and friends back in the Philippines.
Esmeralda Agustin, 38, said she dreamed of teaching in the United States for years before becoming a special education teacher at Deep Springs Elementary.
“My parents didn’t want me to come because I am the youngest in the family,” she told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “But when my father passed away a few years ago, I encouraged my brothers to allow me to come here and work.”
Maria Fatima de la Peña, 33, who is teaching at Winburn Middle School, said Lexington was “an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” even though it meant a long separation from her husband, who is on a three-year tour as a school administrator and teacher in Indonesia.
This is De la Peña’s second US tour. She taught in Palo Alto, California, from 2001 to 2004.
“I had a wonderful experience there, and I wanted to come back,” she said. “The first time it was more of an adventure. This time, it was something I just wanted to do.”
De la Peña said she and her husband, who will visit her here this summer, might eventually settle in the United States.
Filipino teachers seek jobs in US schools because salaries here typically run two or three times the levels back home. And American recruiters like Filipino teachers because the Philippines’ educational system closely resembles the US system.
Each of the Filipino teachers who came to Lexington paid fees of several thousand dollars to a California-based firm that worked with the Fayette schools to facilitate the recruiting process.
The firm, Avenida International Consultants, in turn covered the cost of getting the teachers certified in Kentucky, their travel here and other related expenses.
The Fayette schools’ only expense is paying the teachers’ salaries, which equal the amount American teachers with the same training and experience would receive.
Recruiting foreign teachers to fill critical shortage areas has been a trend in American elementary and secondary education for about a decade. In Kentucky, the Jefferson County Public Schools have hired teachers from both the Philippines and Barbados in recent years.
Fayette County previously has hired teachers from other countries to teach foreign languages, but this is the first time the district has directly recruited a block of teachers from overseas.
Silberman said school officials took the step because Fayette County has been struggling to fill teaching slots for so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes. As a result, the school system sometimes had to get emergency certifications for people to teach STEM classes even though they lacked background in those subjects, he said. – AP