Schools Cast Wide Net for Bilingual Teachers

County recruiters traveled to Puerto Rico to interview candidates

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Representatives from the school system recently traveled to Puerto Rico seeking bilingual teaching candidates.

PHOTO VIA MCPS

As the pool of teachers shrinks in the United States, the Montgomery County school system continues to look elsewhere for qualified applicants.

Representatives from Montgomery County schools traveled to Puerto Rico in late January in pursuit of bilingual educators to teach in one of the country’s largest school systems, which is growing more diverse.

Last year, county schools hired nearly 1,000 teachers.

More than 30 percent of Montgomery County Public Schools’ 162,680 students identify as Hispanic or Latino, while 21 percent are black, 14 percent are Asian and 27 percent are white, according to school district data.

“We really are starting to think about how we need to serve our students and leverage our resources,” school spokesperson Derek Turner said. “We haven’t gone abroad yet, but it’s one of the many strategies we’ll have to consider as we think about our workforce and as the teacher pool keeps shrinking. We’ll need to be creative.”

Recruited teachers play a key role in the school system’s two-way language immersion programs, where 50 percent of instruction is delivered in Spanish, and the other 50 percent in English, Turner said.

The Learning Policy Institute, a nonprofit education research group, estimates 90 percent of teaching position vacancies nationwide are created by teachers who leave the profession – some to retirement, but about two-thirds are departing for different jobs.

The United States Census Bureau reports most educators who pursue other jobs enter the health care and social assistance fields, and are least likely to enter real estate and company management roles.

The school system made its first recruiting trip to Puerto Rico in 2018 and hired roughly 10 teachers, all with at least one year of teaching experience, and “has made some offers” since this year’s trip.

Turner said he was unsure if the school system offers relocation incentives for hires, and the school system did not provide cost estimates for the recruiting trip.

Teachers are sought for all positions, from computer science to special education classes, according to the now-expired job posting.

Turner said many teachers last year were ready to “start over in a new place” after a 2017 hurricane that struck the island and killed more than 3,000 and left an estimated $91 billion in damage.

“A lot of teachers wanted to leave and start careers somewhere else, and it’s a good time for them to get up and leave,” Turner said.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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