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International teachers help fill staffing shortages and bring culture to the classroom

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Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-07 15:34:06-05

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The teacher shortage is such a crisis that schools have had to get creative with bonuses, raises, and housing assistance to attract teachers into the classroom. Now, there’s a growing movement to recruit international teachers to schools across the country, and it’s a movement helping students and teachers alike.

These are the moments that can shape a student’s future. Support in the classroom can mean success in life. However, with so many schools across the country in desperate need of teachers, student success is at risk.

“We kind of stumbled into this,” said CEO of Espiritu Schools Armando Ruiz. “Little did we know that this would be really a treasure chest to all kinds of talent that exist out there, international talent.”

Superintendent Armando Ruiz knew when he couldn’t find teachers in his hometown, he’d have to get creative. The district started hiring international teachers and found that applications started flowing in.

“I have been in the educational field for more than 20 years,” said teacher Sandra Caicedo.

Caicedo applied to Espiritu Schools after teaching in Europe and her home country of Columbia.

“I love teaching because I believe a lot in education,” said Caicedo. “I have recognized the power that education gives not only to the one who teaches, but also the one who learns. In general, I think that teaching makes me a better person.”

This was an opportunity for her to do what she loves and be a role model to students who grew up just like she did.

“Immigrant students are a lot…they are a lot in our classrooms,” said Caicedo. “So, an international teacher can understand their situations differently because we also are coming new to the country.”

“A lot of our kids can't go to other places in the world. They can't travel. So, it's like we brought the world to them,” said Ruiz.

The students see the rich culture their teachers bring to their classrooms every day.

“Oh, international teachers are great because most of the time they teach us about a lot of their cultures and a lot of different things around the world and stuff like that,” said 8th-grader Merai Amaya. “Normally, when teaching, we have different kinds of teachers in our classrooms, and so they teach us a little bit of everything every day.”

Teachers like Caicedo can come to teach at U.S. schools using a J-1 visa and most teachers are recruited from the Philippines, Jamaica, China, France and Columbia, and they’re now working across the United States.

The states hiring most international teachers are North and South Carolina, California, Texas, Arizona and Florida.

“I'm kind of lucky that we have teachers from all around the world wanting to come to our school because our school is a great school,” said Amaya.

“It's not going to answer all the questions, but it's a solution that complements getting to that final phase,” Ruiz. “And that is where you have enough teachers; that this is a career that people want to do. We uphold the career of teachers and say, this is really important to society and we give it the do that that it's do and does.”

Recruiting outside the U.S. has not only helped Espiritu Schools fill staffing shortages but it’s also filled the classrooms with a rich worldview.

“It sounds very romantic, but I want to change the world, and I'm sure that I could do it in a classroom,” said Caicedo.

“I would say go find talent wherever it is,” said Ruiz. “If it's at the end of the world, go find it and you'll be pleasantly supply surprised.”

For more information on Espiritu Schools, click HERE.