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Greener pastures for Filipino teachers in the US

In October 2004, Ireneo Abadejos and Julieta Perez were among Prince George’s County School System's “lucky 30" Filipino teachers recruited to Maryland.

And what was meant to be an experiment by Maryland officials to fill the big teacher shortage proved to be a success, with 100 more Filipino teachers arriving this month before the opening of classes in September.

“We're going to continue to look for teachers in innovative places," said Prince George County’s recruitment officer, Robert Gaskin, who is still searching to fill up the 1,000 vacancies mid-August this year.

Three years ago, Gaskin selected 30 teachers from the Philippines to come to the US as temporary workers on H-1B visas. The visa allowed the employer to later on sponsor the Filipinos' residency in the country.

The 41-year-old Abadejos left his job as a science teacher at Ateneo de Manila University to teach physics at Suitland High School, a part of the Prince George County school system.

“We survived. Filipinos are very pliant. As pliant as bamboo," Abadejos said, recalling how a guidance counselor there initially told him that he will be ‘eaten alive’ in the American classroom.

Perez, 35 years old, teaches at Oxon Hill Elementary and had to overcome cultural challenges such as the American lingo.

Both have acclimatized well with the culture and have moved their families to Maryland. They have to remain with Prince George’s school system for three more years to secure their permanent US residency.

In 2005, a critical teacher shortage has forced Baltimore educators to look overseas for help. WBAL-TV 11 News education reporter Tim Tooten reported that almost 60 new teachers from the Philippines arrived in Baltimore in July 2005 to prepare for their first day on the job.

The teachers -- most with 10, 15 and 20 years of experience -- believe their new jobs will be worth the challenge and the sacrifice of being away from home, family and friends.

Maryland’s second largest school district has hired almost 200 teachers from the Philippines to fill up vacancies in the next 12 months.

Twenty-eight of the new recruits started in Prince George’s County schools this month while another 170 will be coming in for the 2008- 2009 academic year beginning August next year.

Maryland’s Gazette recently reported that the teachers can teach in the county for six years with temporary citizenship. After the term, they can either apply for US citizenship or return to the Philippines.

Last year, Prince George’s County hired 107 Filipino teachers and 80 in 2005.

Maryland universities and colleges graduate about 2,500 teachers annually. Prince George’s County, which hires more than 1,000 new teachers every year, must compete with 23 other state school districts for those new teachers, according to the Gazette.

Filipino teachers are said to be preferred in US schools because accreditation requirements are very similar to the American requirements.

‘‘We’re not training the teachers in the United States, so we need to start looking at places where there are more teachers," said school board chairman Owen Johnson, who helped interview teacher candidates. ‘‘They recognize our shortages. ... They have been very aggressive in getting us to come and recruit.

"School officials of the school district personnel went to the Philippines earlier this year to screen more than 300 applicants and 198 were offered a contract to teach at prince George’s, the second largest school district in Maryland and the 17th largest in the United States.

Since 2002, Prince George’s has recruited more than 400 Filipino educators.

The average starting salary in Prince George’s for a teacher with an undergraduate degree is $43,841, leaving foreign-born teachers with much more to support family members.


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Pinoy Teachers Network has been a great help to new teachers here in America. More power to its Prime Movers who are always there to inform and facilitate the involvement of us teachers in any enriching activities. -- Perla Alega, PG County, Maryland--

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