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Contracting out teaching jobs helps address pressing need

AZTEC – On a recent cold Monday morning at C.V. Koogler Middle School in Aztec, students stumbled into Shannon Albores’ history class. They took off their rumpled jackets and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then they greeted their teacher by saying in unison, “magandang umaga!” – which is Filipino for “good morning.”

Filipino contract teacher Shannon Albores, who teachers middle school history and seventh grade math at Koogler Middle School in Aztec, works with students in October. (Sam Ribakoff/Associated Press )

Albores was born and raised in Cebu, a province in the Philippines. There she earned a teaching credential and started teaching kindergarten and elementary school. She liked it, but after learning of an opportunity to teach abroad – and with it, the chance to earn a higher salary – she took the opportunity.

Albores, along with seven other teachers from various parts of the Philippines, started working in the Aztec Municipal School District at the start of the 2019 school year to fill persistently unfilled vacancies at the school bright spotdistrict, especially in special education departments in all grade levels.

“These are positions that had been vacant for seven years,” said Tania Prokop, the Deputy Superintendent of the Aztec Municipal School District, “luckily we found a local company to bring teachers here from the Philippines.”

That Farmington-based company charges fees to those teachers, and its owner said she keeps those fees as low as possible because she, herself, paid much higher fees when she came to this country years ago through another agency that charged her twice as much.

School districts, like Aztec, and others throughout the country have turned to an emerging international contract teacher industry that recruits teachers from around the world to teach in school districts throughout the country. One of those contracting companies, Bepauche International, has its offices in Farmington.

“Our pool of teachers can be 500 to 1,000 teachers big. We’re ready and willing to fill vacancies,” said Cheryl Marie Maghinay, the co-owner of Bepauche International, via telephone from the Philippines, where she was on a recruiting trip looking for Filipino teachers to send to schools across the U.S.

Maghinay herself was a teacher, immigrating to the U.S. from General Santos city in the Philippines. She got her master’s degree in education in the United States, and then taught in Antelope Valley, California, and then on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

On the Navajo Nation, Maghinay said she saw the need schools in the U.S. had for teachers, especially in rural schools, so in 2015 she said she started Bepauche International to bring qualified Filipino teachers to the U.S.

“We check to see if our teachers are legitimate,” Maghinay said. The teachers she works with not only have to have a degree in education, and years of experience teaching, but she said she also looks for teachers with a certain amount of familiarity with U.S. culture.

Maghinay then coordinates with school districts in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Montana, and now New Mexico, for teachers that she vets to conduct interviews with school administrators over video telecommunications apps like Skype.

The Aztec school district isn’t alone in its teacher vacancies problem. School districts throughout the state, and the country, are in dire need of qualified teachers.

A report published in 2018 by New Mexico State University found that there were 740 unfilled public school teacher vacancies throughout the state. Some school districts have tried to fill those positions by hiring more long-term substitute teachers.

The New Mexico State University study points to factors that may lead to shortages: comparatively low salaries, working conditions and high work expectations, stress about job insecurity and a high rate of student testing.

The problem, however, plagues school districts nationwide. A study from the Learning Policy Institute, an education think tank, estimated that the country is short 112,000 teachers.

 

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