A New Addition to South Broward: Forgien Exchange Teachers

Angie Jaramillo, Editor

It’s not easy to explain to a 4-year old that mommy will be leaving for a couple of years to afford a bottle of milk, but that’s exactly what Diana Alegrado had to do. 

“He would say ‘mom I need milk’ and I would say ‘Oh, I haven’t bought any milk yet. Momma needs to look for a better high paying job so that I can provide you with the milk,’” said Alegrado. 

Alegrado is one of the 109 forgein exchange teachers hired by Broward County public school this year to fill the ever growing gap of teacher positions and willing local applicants. 

And she isn’t alone. Many of the forgein teachers have left their families behind to seek a higher pay. Joan San-Agustin is a Filipino science  teacher at SBHS, who left her spouse and her three kids behind, just like Alegrado did. 

“It is a big difference[in salary], because our government cannot afford to pay us more,” said San-Agustin. “My plan is to send money to my family and use it for my living expenses.” 

According to Susan Rockelman, Director for Talent Acquisition and Operations, the teacher shortage has been an on-going issue since 2018 for Broward County Public Schools. Traditionally, BCPS needs about 900 new teachers each school year to fill the vacant spots left by retired or resigned teachers.

But recently, that number has grown.

“Over the last few years, finding qualified, experienced, trained teachers has become more challenging,” said Rockelman.

As the second largest school district, BCPS has 15,000 teachers who have retired or resigned at the end of each school year, which is a large gap to fill.

Rockelman says that BCPS has a strong recruitment plan; they go to all of the local and out of state universities and colleges and talk to candidates who plan to become teachers. 

“We do several marketings and social digital advertising,” she said. “we are just still not finding enough candidates here in the country so I have explored some other avenues on how we can fill our vacancies.”   

The solution to the issue: Forgein Cultural Exchange Consultants, a program that sponsors Filipino teachers on an exchange cultural visa that lasts 3-5 years and secures candidates for BCPS’s team to interview. If they meet the criteria, BCPS would offer a contract to work with them for elementary, middle, and high school, teaching subjects like math and science. 

Alegrado was more than qualified with a bachelors degree in science, and a total of 16 years of teaching. She was also head coordinator of the senior high program. She helped develop in her country, the Philipines, the k-12 system that we have in the United States.

“My love for teaching goes beyond my love for my country,” said Alegrado. 

She  expresses that she has served her country well enough and that it is her time to venture into new things, more specifically improving her financial situation. 

Although leaving her family behind was not part of the plan.

“It just happened at the right time, right place,” said Alegrado.“ I have to admit that I get better pay here and as a mother, I need that.”