Some Arizona schools looking abroad to fill teacher vacancies

Nov 4, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 6:33 am

PHOENIX — Schools across Arizona are doing everything they can to fill teacher vacancies. But after coming up short, some are looking outside the country.

Donald Babiano is one of the hundreds of international teachers hired to work in Arizona schools. Mr. B, as he’s known to his students, teaches second grade at Canyon Breeze Elementary School in Avondale.

“I’ve been teaching for 10 years now, and I was a teacher for eight years in the Philippines,” Babiano said.

“I just love doing it, and I find myself going to school every day with excitement and a happy face.”

A recent survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) of 130 school districts and charter schools found 457 teacher vacancies were filled by individuals hired from outside the United States in September. That’s up from 399 a year ago and 296 two years ago.

Many of them are in the country with J-1 visas through a culture exchange program that allows them to teach in the U.S. for up to five years. They’re required to have a college degree and at least two years of teaching or similar professional experience.

Some international teachers are also here with H-1B visas, which provides them the possibility of applying for permanent residency.

Patti Tussey, chief human resource officer for the Pendergast Elementary School District, told KTAR News 92.3 FM the J-1 visa program is “one recruiting option that we have” as the state continues to see a severe teacher shortage.

The district, which is where Babiano teaches, began hiring international teachers in 2015. Currently, it employs more than 40.

“Many of them are qualified in science, math and special education,” Tussey said. “Those are specific areas where it’s even more difficult to fill.”

ASPAA has been tracking the state’s teacher shortage since 2016. Its twice-yearly surveys have found that about a quarter of teacher positions remain vacant a month into each semester.

Tussey stressed if it weren’t for the J-1 visa program and others like it, she doesn’t know where else they’d look for teachers.

“We do recruit across the country as well as the local universities, and again we’re not able to fill these positions,” Tussey said.

Meanwhile, Babiano said despite being thousands of miles from home and being away from all his friends and family, he feels like he’s the fortunate one.

“When I got in here, everybody was very helpful, welcoming, very respectful to the culture that I have,” Babiano said. “And so, I never struggled. That’s the reason why I enjoy going to school every day.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Donald Babiano (KTAR News Griselda Zetino Photo) (Facebook Photo/Donald Babiano) (Facebook Photo/Donald Babiano)

Arizona News

(Pexels Photo)...

Former border agent indicted in sexual assault, kidnapping of Arizona minor

A former border patrol agent in Arizona was indicted Wednesday on charges of sexually assaulting and kidnapping of a minor, federal authorities said.
13 hours ago
(YouTube Screenshot)...

Lockdown lifted at 2 Scottsdale schools after police respond to gun report

Two schools in north Scottsdale were placed on lockdown for about two hours Friday morning after a student reported seeing a person with a gun.
13 hours ago
Henry Mcleod (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...

Suspect accused of stabbing Mesa Fry’s employee after feeling ‘disrespected’

A man was arrested in Mesa after he allegedly stabbed a grocery store worker because he felt disrespected by him last month, authorities said.
13 hours ago
(Luke Forstner/KTAR News)...
Luke Forstner

Growing Asian District in Mesa budding with enthusiasm for restaurants, shops, diversity

The Asian District in Mesa has come to life with enthusiasm for its restaurants, grocers and variety of other businesses.
13 hours ago
(Butterfly Wonderland Facebook Photo/Getty Images)...

Weekend guide: Here are the biggest events around metro Phoenix for Dec. 2-4

With holiday season activities in full swing, here are some of the biggest events in metro Phoenix this weekend.
13 hours ago
(The Global Ambassador Photo)...
Kevin Stone

Mediterranean rooftop restaurant coming to Phoenix’s Global Ambassador hotel

Sam Fox announced that Theà Mediterranean Rooftop will be one of five original restaurants at his first hotel project, The Global Ambassador.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Some Arizona schools looking abroad to fill teacher vacancies