Hawaii targets Philippines for teacher recruitment
As Hawaii’e education system deals with its teacher shortages, a light of hope emerges through a solution that would benefit both Hawaii and the Philippines.
In Hawaii’s history of recruiting Filipino workers, it dates back to 1906, when Filipino arrived to work as sugar plantation workers. In the following four decades, nearly 126,000 Filipinos migrated to the island to work.
Now, Hawaii is looking to reconnect its labor connection with the Philippines, as recruitment started with the arrival of 80 teachers. The Department of Education hired them for the next school year, beginning this August.
The presence of Philippine teachers is significant to the long-standing teacher shortage crisis that has been imminent in Hawaii’s public school system for years. In addition, it can also increase the low percentage of 8% of Filipino educators in the DOE.
DOE’s head recruiter, James Urbaniak, said that Hawaii opt to hire teachers from the Philippines. It was their first global recruitment drive.
Their department decided to hire Filipino teachers as Filipino students cover 30% of the whole student body. Thus, representing more numbers than other races.
Urbaniak stated that they found out in their research that they need educators who resonate with most of the student population. He added That’s so powerful in being able to inspire and motivate a student when a child looks up and sees a teacher who reminds them of their family, their grandparents, their community.”
The Recruitment Program
He is also highly optimistic about this Philippine recruitment program. Urbaniak confirmed that the agency has interviewed hundreds of applicants using a “very competitive process.”
Another major factor is that Filipino students use the English language in major subjects alongside Pilipino from elementary years to university levels.
Moreover, since most Filipinos in Hawaii are from Ilocos, the teachers hired were mostly of Ilokano descent. They are employed as they have more familiarity with their local language and cultural backgrounds.
Considering such, the immigrant parents of Filipino students can communicate better with their teachers, given their cultural similarities. Moreover, the DOE also collaborates with an international employment agency, as confirmed by the Honolulu Civil Beat report.
This agency is the Foreign Cultural Exchange Consultants, which has an office in Metro Manila. They evaluate and recruit teacher applicants.
In addition, they are also seeking teachers with years of experience for recruitment in other US states like Nevada, Florida, and Arizona. Urbaniak said the DOE recruitment program started in 2020 with just ten hired teachers.
However, it stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, 80 teachers are recruited for Hawaii and will work on different islands. Fifty teachers will be designated to Maui due to its high demand. Molokai is not included on the list.
For the next school year (2024-2025), the DOE will bring in 200 teachers through their collaborative efforts with the Foreign Cultural Exchange Consultants. They will handle duties similar to the current hires and teach Science, Math, English, and special education at all grade levels.
Urbaniak also noted that the hired teachers are “high-quality certified educators.” They have degrees from educational programs equivalent to the US academic standards.
Aside from the abovementioned requirements, aspiring applicants should have two years of teaching experience. Once hired, a teacher will come to the US with a J-1 visa that the American Embassy in Manila issued.
With this visa, they can work in Hawaii for a maximum of 5 years. In addition, they will also be required to enter a three-year commitment to working in the DOE.
However, as a requirement for the J-1 visa, the hired teachers must return to the Philippines and work for at least two years in public schools.
This way, both countries will benefit as the hired teachers can share their gained knowledge from training and working abroad. In addition to the great opportunities are the optimum benefits and good pay.
The Filipino teachers will be employed with the same salary as other DOE teachers. They will receive the same benefits, such as health insurance and Hawaii State Teachers Association membership.
But it’s a different case for teachers with master’s or doctoral degrees in education with several years of teaching experience. Their starting annual salaries will range from $70,000 – $80,000.
However, there are some barriers to the recruitment program. One is the Filipino teachers’ lack of license to teach in Hawaii. When this license by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board is issued, the DOE can permit them to teach.
Teachers should pass three praxis examinations in pedagogy, fundamental skills, and content knowledge. The exams are available online monthly, and the DOE will compensate and reimburse the teachers for taking them to solve the licensing challenges.
When applicants pass, they will receive their licenses in a few months. They will also earn bonuses that DOE teachers receive on top of their basic salaries.
There would be an additional salary for those teaching in challenging locations. The bonus will range from $3,000 – $8,000. The maximum bonus amount will be given to those assigned to Nanakuli, Lanai, and Waianae.
On top of these bonuses, the DOE will also pay up to $2,000 in relocation costs to the teachers. Even before they start teaching, the teachers will already receive help from the local Filipino community in Hawaii.
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