Freeport schools hire educators from Spain to fill teacher shortage

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FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Many schools in Illinois are facing a teacher shortage, and to help fill that gap, the Freeport School District is bringing in educators from Spain!

The teachers are part of the Exchange Visitor Teacher Program, and this is Freeport’s third year participating.

The program is a partnership between the Illinois Board of Education and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture, which puts bilingual teachers in local classrooms, filling vacancies in the district.

“These teachers are skilled and have a variety of certifications, some special ed and those regular classroom positions,” said Nita White, Director of Equity and Curriculum. “I was able to bring back five.”

Alberto Legaz teaches English as a second language. He just started his third year with District 145.

Legaz believes that being able to communicate with students in their native language is a big advantage in the classroom.

“Seventy percent of my students are Hispanic background, so they can talk to me,” he said. “They can express themselves and there’s no language barrier.”

Visiting teachers from Spain agree to teach in the U.S. for three years, with an option to extend their stay for an additional two years.

“[Students] get a quality teacher in front of them to support, teach them, and also, support our families as well,” White said. “They have a teacher who is fluent in English and fluent in Spanish and able to really support their native language speaking, yet simultaneously work with them and teach them English. So, having that quality teacher, it’s invaluable.”

White says teachers from Spain bring a richness from their culture to our students. Legaz says students aren’t the only ones to benefit from the program.

“We learn a lot about your culture, your geography, your customs,” he said. “Different students, not only American students, but I have students from everywhere in the world. I mean, I have Asian students from Pakistan or Iraq, and I learn from them, too. I’m so glad I can learn from them. I think it’s a win-win situation.”

There are currently 138 bilingual teachers from Spain working in Illinois schools.

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