Filipino teachers come to help alleviate the U.S. teacher shortage in our time of need.
Carolyn Stewart is the superintendent for Bullhead City School District, a district based in Mohave County about 85 miles south of Las Vegas. Stewart has spent months trying to fill staffing shortages at her rural schools, but by the time school began in September, she was still about 30% short. 2,300 kids came back to class to find conjoined classrooms with one teacher teaching two subjects or sixty kids. Almost immediately, teachers were overwhelmed. Resignations began to trickle in, and new applications didn’t.
“The first two weeks have been the hardest thing I’ve ever faced,” wrote the principal of one of her schools to her, in an email. “My teachers are burnt out already. They come to me for answers and I really have none. We are, as my dad used to say, four flat tires from bankruptcy, except in this case we are one teacher away from not being able to operate the school.”
Bullhead City SD isn’t alone – over 370,000 teachers have left the field since the beginning of the pandemic. Some states are recruiting camp counselors, army wives, or anyone who has ever been in a college classroom. But there is no line-up for a job requiring that much work and only paying $38,000 a year, which is all Stewart has to offer.
When job fairs, college internships, and headhunting failed to fill the desks, Stewart told her school board to look anywhere, and they did.
20 teachers from the Philippines agreed to take the offer, to move to the rural, impoverished school district. All of them with master’s degrees, they are better qualified than any of the applicants Stewart was finding here.
Bullhead is an under-performing school district, by Arizona standards, and will be a challenge for anyone, especially those new to the country. But the generosity they’ve shown in coming here is stunning. The $8000 wage of a high-performing Filipino teacher at home buys a house and supports a family. More than four times that here will see them sharing apartments and still struggling. But they’ve come anyway.