Program would bring international teachers to county
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 9, 2006
Seeing a desperate need for teachers in Pinal County, Central Arizona College
and Arizona State University have forged a partnership that will funnel
certified teachers with international teaching experience, particularly in Latin
American countries, into classrooms in the fast-growing county.
Students in districts like Coolidge and Florence will directly benefit from the
Pinal Post-Baccalaureate Partnership, which also looks to diversify Pinal
County's teaching staff to better reflect the area's growing Hispanic
"This program is a way of recruiting some people who are traditionally
underemployed, bringing them to the county where we have need, and giving the
schools some qualified bodies," said Ray Polvani, a consultant with Central
Arizona College who helped brainstorm the idea for the program about a year ago.
Approved by the Arizona State Board of Education and in partnership with the
Mexican Consul General's Office, the program will recruit specific students,
ones living in the U.S. legally and have a bachelor's degree from an accredited
institution but aren't yet certified to teach in Arizona. The two-and-a-half
year post-graduate program will earn the student a master's degree in curriculum
and instruction and a provisional endorsement in English as a second language.
Program administrators are specifically looking for Latin American immigrants
who were teachers before coming to the U.S. The program, a first of its kind in
Arizona, will fast track the students through the certification and master's
degree process in addition to offering a mentorship program.
In exchange, the students must commit to at least a three-year stay at a school
in a Pinal County School District.
"We're hoping that by having them commit to three years, and becoming part of
those communities . . . they will settle into those areas," Polvani said.
Jack Harmon, Pinal County Superintendent, said he is glad his schools will
benefit from the program. But, he admits the 25-30 teachers the program hopes to
eventually graduate each session will hardly make a dent in the need.
"This will just be a drop in the bucket, but we think it will be a way to get
some quality people and get some good assistance in there," Harmon said.
"We've got people coming in from all over."
Maricopa Superintendent Alma Farrell said she hears numerous languages being
spoken in the hallways of her schools. Farrell said she thinks the program
offers a unique opportunity to teachers with more diverse backgrounds to find
their way into Pinal County classrooms.
"There's a push to do that because of the influx of people that we have seen out
of the state, not only immigrants," Farrell said. "Because we have a high,
culturally-diverse population in the state, it's not just Spanish-speaking
The program is designed to specifically address the need for Spanish-speaking
teachers who will be able to assist with English-language learners. Polvani said
more and more students have been entering Pinal County classrooms with a need
for English language instruction.
"We're trying to go as far as we can to find people that can assist students but
not violate the law," he said. "We are not trying to do bilingual education."
Andi Cardona, a social studies teacher in the Coolidge Unified School District,
said she definitely sees a need for English-speaking teachers with
"Those students coming from Mexico, those are the ones that really need some
Spanish in the classroom," Cardona said. "They are some of our highest at-risk
kids. It would be helpful just developing relationships with students."
Cardona previously worked in the hotel industry, but switched to teaching
because of the PACE program, a program similar to the Pinal Post-Bac that
fast-tracks working professionals through their certification process and gets
them into classrooms. She said she would never have made the move to teaching
without the program.
Polvani said the hope is to begin the program this fall with 25-30 people, and
increase enrollment by the same figure each semester.
Candidates for the program must be fluent in English, and although recruitment
is looking specifically at teachers from Latin America, it is open to candidates
who have a valid bachelor's degree. American citizens who are fluent in Spanish
may also apply.