Filipino teachers highly praised and in demand in US
NEW YORK – Nearly a hundred teachers from Manila, Cebu, Mandaue and all over United States attended the 2017 International Educators’ Convention hosted by the oldest Filipino teachers’ organization in the US, Association of Fil-Am Teachers of America, Inc. (AFTA).
The first event of its kind marked three decades of Filipino educators’ committed participation in US education and coincided with the AFTA’s pearl anniversary. It was held on November 11 at the Philippine Center in this city.
The educators arrived in a winter-like weather warmed by a welcoming feast at the Philippine Center. Members of other teacher organizations, AFTEA and UNIFIED joined forces for a show of Fil-Am strength and unity. Noy Pillora, member of the popular Filipino band Asin, and Judy Canete, AFTA’s PRO rendered Filipino songs to set the mood for the gathering.
Opening the panel discussion was Undersecretary Lorna Dig Dino of Philippine Department of Education, who reported on the status of K to 12 Curriculum in the Philippines and plans to launch the system in the rural areas.
Labor Attache Saul de Vries of Philippine Embassy announced new programs and labor initiatives, including one that encourages Filipino teachers currently employed as domestic workers abroad to come home.
The program dubbed “Dito Sa Pinas Ikaw ang Ma’am at Sir” (Here in the Philippines You’re the “Ma’am” and “Sir”) calls on all education graduates who are certified teachers but are working abroad as domestic workers to return home. DECS already hired more than 600 teachers for the K to 12 Curriculum, their salaries are higher than the $100 offered at Hongkong and United Arab Emirates for domestic workers. Microlending programs, lending from P100,000 to P2 million, also await returning immigrant workers. President Duterte approved the conversion of Overseas Filipino Bank to assist OFWs in financial services.
De Vries lauded the Filipino teachers in the US for achieving a respectable place in American society; they are known to be “highly trusted, and well-liked by their employers.” Comments from reputable employers in Washington say, “Filipino teachers exhibit excellence, professionalism and highest sense of responsibility,” according to De Vries.
“You make us proud! Let me congratulate AFTA for hosting this International Educators Convention for it has played significant role in shaping the positive reception among Filipino teachers because of the work you do. Marami pong Salamat,” De Vries concluded.
Dr. Kevin Nadal of CUNY Graduate School gave the closing keynote during the three-day event. The lectures and presentations covered topics in the different disciplines like the sciences, mathematics, literacy, innovative techniques and teaching strategies and for other attendees’ personal and continuing professional development.
Teacher fashionistas, left to right, AFTA President Dr. Roxanne Cajigas, Uliran Guro awardee Laura Garcia and UNIFIED past-VP Jojo Demol. INQUIRER/Carol Tanjutco
A highlight of the convention was a staging of a New York-style runway show, Pagdiriwang Ng Kulturang Pilipino (Celebrating Filipino Culture), featuring regional costumes from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, from Muslim and tribal wear to the modern day Baro’t Saya and Maria Clara. The show featured delegates and invited friends in the Filipino community. There were also Filipino songs, a folk dance and a reenactment of “Putungan,, or crowning of guest honorees.
Convention Chair Pacita Ros recalled, “The first known Filipino teacher recruits came in 1986 to staff schools in the Archdiocese of New York when they faced a dire teacher shortage. Several more were recruited from the Philippines and also those teachers who arrived from Nigeria in the following years till the 1990s. Great was the need for teachers so that many others who held a visitor’s visa got hired as well.”
“Day care centers run by ACS and business schools did many hiring of Filipino teachers as well. They were also hired in many schools to teach Adult Literacy. Subsequent recruitment of Filipino educators by the New York City Department of Education and by the surrounding eastern seaboard states took place beginning in the early 2000 to 2011,” Ros elaborated.
Teachers are still in demand, but as warned by NY Consul Kerwin Tate, paying for H-1B visas is illegal. Coming in as a student on J visa has no assurance of getting a job; hence, Filipinos must take great precaution, check the recruiters’ status and consult with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA). The Department of Labor in Washington, DC is coordinating these efforts to prevent illegal recruitment and charging of fees.
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