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Virginia Beach onboards teachers from the Philippines as part of recruitment strategy

In a time when applicant pools for almost every profession are seemingly smaller, recruiters in Virginia Beach recently reverted to something they did 20 years ago.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — School systems are not immune to the nationwide trend of staffing shortages, which is why administrators with Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) have turned to an international plan to fill some critical teaching vacancies.

This effort is just one part of VBCPS leaders' overall recruitment strategy, but they stressed its big impact.

They told 13News Now this particular plan is not new to the division, "but it has been a while since we have."

Living in the Philippines at the time, Arlene Mante recalled how the opportunity came about to move to the United States in 2003.  

"They interviewed so many teachers. Every place they went, they interviewed teachers. And there were only four of us, we eventually came here," said Mante.

Since then, Mante has taught math at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach.

"When you get into a new system, there will always be some nuances. The only important thing is you have to be open to change," said Mante. "And you have to seek every opportunity to build your profession, your career and you have to build connections with your community." 

In the last couple of months, the community grew larger with the addition of 23 teachers recruited from the Philippines. One of them was Ma. Elena Teresa Domingo.

"It's been a long process, but then it's worth [it], it's really worth [it]," said Domingo. "I think it's the opportunity, but most especially in our field, in mathematics and special education. They may be more in demand right now, in abroad."

VCBPS human resources specialists also told 13News Now the teachers are already highly qualified, skilled, and certified who are needed to fill critical shortage areas.

For instance, Mante taught at the high school and collegiate level for 13 years in the Philippines before arriving in Virginia Beach. Domingo taught for 13 years in the Philippines, as well as nine years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

"We need more, especially in the areas of mathematics and special education. And I think it's an opportunity for those who are outside of the country to get that, see and experience for themselves how it is to be with these young kids and make a difference in their lives," Mante said. 

Mante co-teaches math with Domingo now. Domingo moved to the U.S. in the middle of March, navigating not only a new workplace but a new country. 

Credit: Contributed, Ma. Elena Teresa Domingo

In many instances, overseas Filipino workers uproot their families or move far away from loved ones.

Domingo said she has been welcomed with open arms. 

"I can say that we are family here right now, together with Green Run High School," Domingo added. 

And Mante explained how the seasoned teachers often meet with the new group, to help with any professional and cultural learning curves. 

"Whatever we went through for the last 20 years, we're trying to share it with them so that they will thrive, not only survive but thrive and become more successful in the future," Mante said.

Both women commended their administrators and the community for their support. 

In the fall, Domingo and the other recruits should start teaching classes of their own. However, some could begin solo teaching as early as this summer. 

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