The New Mexico high desert is known for its beauty.The area enjoys sunny skies,and even snow in winter.
One thing missing has been teachers.
The Aztec Municipal School District serves about 3,000 students in northwestern New Mexico.But,for nearly eight years,the school district had trouble finding full-time teachers for its special education students.It instead used temporary or substitute teachers to work with children who have physical disabilities or difficulty learning.
Tania Prokop is Aztec's Deputy Superintendent.She tells VOA Americans were not interested in the full-time positions.
Aztec is not alone.New Mexico State University reported that the state had 740 unfilled teaching positions in public schools.
A study from the Learning Policy Institute estimates that nationwide,public school districts currently have a shortage of 112,000 teachers.
This year,through a program that brings foreigners to teach in U.S.schools,Aztec has eight full-time,special education teachers.All of them are Filipinos with J1 visas from the U.S.State Department.They teach some of the children who attend the district's six schools.
Aztec's Filipino teachers are trained specialists in their areas of expertise.They come to teach for three years,and the visa can be extended for up to five years.The J1 visa,however,does not lead to a green card,or permanent residency in the United States.
Prokop gives high marks to the Filipino teachers,saying it has been"a wonderful experience."
Not all of it has been easy.
Both the Filipino teachers and the American students have to get used to the differences in their cultures.
Prokop says managing the classroom is"one of the biggest things"the teachers have had to learn.
Learning in the classroom is not just limited to reading books and doing homework.
Prokop said that many of the students have never traveled far from home.
"So to have somebody come from a whole different country across an ocean and share those experiences and share pictures and share stories and share food and we're coming up to some holidays.So they'll be sharing some different experiences with holidays."
Prokop said the community welcomed the eight Filipino teachers and helped them settle into their new homes.
Riva Alipin is one of the eight.She teaches mathematics—integrated Algebra—at Aztec High School with another teacher.
"Working in America is a dream of every Filipino teacher,"she told VOA.She said she believes America provides an"excellent"chance for them to improve their teaching.
Coming here to teach in America,she said,she needed"a lot of guts."In other words,one must be brave.Alipin also said it was"risky"because New Mexico is so far away from her homeland.