Nebraska Looks for Spanish-Language Teachers—from Mexico

By Sean Cavanagh — December 22, 2010 2 min read
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This much seems certain about a new group of Spanish-language teachers coming to Nebraska: their fluency will not be in question.

The state has reached an agreement with the government of Mexico to hire teachers from that country for unfilled positions as foreign-language teachers and bilingual education specialists in the state’s schools. So starting in the fall of 2011, schools in Grand Island or similar Cornhusker locales could receive a Spanish-language infusion from, say, Guadalajara.

Nebraska’s arrangement with the Mexican ministry of education will allow teachers to work in the state for up to three years, on a J-1 visa. The rural Midwestern state has had trouble finding qualified applicants to fill positions in Spanish-language and bilingual education classes for years, partly because individuals with fluency are likely to head for jobs in the private sector, Nebraska officials say. This agreement should help fill that void, said Vickie Scow, the world-language specialist for the Nebraska Department of Education.

Scow did not have an estimate of how many Mexican teachers would join the school system. But she noted that the state has for years had similar agreements to hire language teachers from other foreign countries, including China, Germany, Spain, and France.

A Nebraska department official would likely travel to Mexico to interview potential hires in person. School districts searching for a teacher would also be encouraged to interview them, either over the phone or by Skype, Scow added. The hiring decisions are left to the districts.

The teachers are paid for their work under the same salary arrangements established by their school systems for other educators. Students gain from learning about the culture and history of foreign countries that teachers from other countries provide, Scow said, and there’s a payoff for school employees, too.

“The teachers benefit,” she said. “We learn a lot from each other’s education systems.”

Nebraska is not alone in looking south of the Rio Grande for talent. New Mexico, California, and other states have done the same thing in the past, in some cases while overcoming bureaucratic obstacles to do so, as my colleague Mary Ann Zehr has reported. One recent study found that as of 2009, Spain had 31 separate agreements with states to supply them with teachers, she notes.

What advantages or disadvantages does this transnational teaching bring to schools?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.