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Brighton 27J School District seeks foreign teachers to fill vacancies

Unable to hire, Brighton 27J School District seeks foreign teachers
Unable to hire, Brighton 27J School District seeks foreign teachers 02:39

Beleaguered by a shortage of funding and a lack of people going into the teaching profession, Brighton 27J School District is turning to foreign workers to fill open teaching positions.


"It was my childhood dream to be in the US, to experience American culture to be able to teach here," said Allan de Leon, a mathematics teacher now working at Vikan Middle School. He is one of two teachers now working for the district from the Philippines.

"We're the third lowest funded district in the state of Colorado in overall funding. And that has an impact on what we pay," said district human resources director Michael Clow. 

Low salaries and housing costs have combined to make it even more difficult for districts to find teachers. 

"The candidate pools have shrunk. And specifically, we're concerned about math, science, special Ed," said Clow. 


The latest state data shows the state had prepared and licensed only 130 math teachers for grades 7-12 in the most recent year for which data was available, 2019-2020. Some of the district's principals saw programs that offered cultural exchanges for teachers from other countries, like the Philippines and asked if it was possible for the district to consider it. The teachers come through an agency that helps with placement in the United States. 

"This is a cultural program that has an end to it. So they can't stay here forever," noted Clow. 

The teachers are on J1 cultural visas. They run for three years with an option of renewal for two more, but after five years, the teachers have to return. 

"After five years I am expected and I am required to go back to the Philippines and share with my Filipino students what I learned in the U.S.," said de Leon. 

A teacher in the Philippines for four years, he left behind a family with a young son. That transition was hard. 

"I was really like crying for the first few days," he added. 

De Leon has found the students in his native country were easier to teach than American students. 

"They are more respectful to teachers and they are more eager to learn." 

But he hopes to share with the American middle schoolers lessons outside of math. 


"I want my students to embrace and know the diverse culture that we have." 

The salary of about $50,000 here in the United States while low here, is still many times higher than his earnings were in the Philippines. He is working out a plan to send money home.

Clow shares with parents that the teachers working on the cultural exchange have to meet similar requirements as other teachers.

"They're expected to hold a license. They go through the interview process. And they're vetted in the same way any other teacher." 

The district is already looking at hiring three more teachers, two from the Philippines and one from Gabon.

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