MCPS recruits bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico

Students+at+Washington+Grove+Elementary+School+collaborate+in+Spanish.+The+elementary+school%2C+along+with+four+others+in+the+county%2C+is+in+need+of+more+teachers+who+can+speak+Spanish+and+English.+Photo+by+Max+London.
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MCPS recruits bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico

Students at Washington Grove Elementary School collaborate in Spanish. The elementary school, along with four others in the county, is in need of more teachers who can speak Spanish and English. Photo by Max London.

Students at Washington Grove Elementary School collaborate in Spanish. The elementary school, along with four others in the county, is in need of more teachers who can speak Spanish and English. Photo by Max London.

Students at Washington Grove Elementary School collaborate in Spanish. The elementary school, along with four others in the county, is in need of more teachers who can speak Spanish and English. Photo by Max London.

Students at Washington Grove Elementary School collaborate in Spanish. The elementary school, along with four others in the county, is in need of more teachers who can speak Spanish and English. Photo by Max London.

By Max London

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MCPS staff recruiters traveled to Puerto Rico in late January to recruit bilingual teachers who would teach two-way immersion programs and other courses at county schools. Last year, representatives hired around 10 teachers from the trip. This year, they’ve made offers to several candidates.

Throughout Montgomery County―and nationally―staff recruitment efforts are increasing as older teachers retire and fewer college students enter the profession. The decrease may be due to lower salaries and a perception that teaching lacks professional autonomy, a 2018 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education report found.

“We go around the state looking to recruit more talent, but we might have to look abroad or think of more creative solutions so we can have enough staff to teach our growing student population,” Turner said.

Recruiting in places like Puerto Rico has become more desirable because it presents a pool of potential teachers outside the county. On recruiting trips, staff members from the MCPS Department of Certification and Staffing first reach out to local community members associated with education.

“The first thing we do is make ourselves present,” assistant director for MCPS staffing Stacey Kopnitsky said.

All the teachers hired from last year’s trip had at least one year of teaching experience and filled a range of positions, from teaching in special education classes to bilingual programs.

The candidates go through a thorough vetting process and are well qualified to teach, Kopnitsky said. As part of the process, the staff recruiters determine if the applicants would be successful in Montgomery County.

“We want the teachers going into schools to feel comfortable and welcome and where they have the opportunity to grow,” Kopnitsky said.

Many will likely teach in Brown Station, Kemp Mill, Oakland Terrace, Rolling Terrace and Washington Grove elementary schools, where students learn in a two-way immersion program, Kopnitsky said. Lessons are 50 percent English and 50 percent Spanish.

By recruiting teachers from Puerto Rico, MCPS recruitment staff is looking to increase staff diversity, as teacher diversity helps both white and minority students to have a greater cultural understanding.

It can also improve student learning in languages, Spanish teacher Fabiola Katz said.

“For an immersion program that starts when kids are little, non-native speakers usually don’t have the same fluency as native speakers,” Katz said. “It’s great when students learn from a native speaker and can pick up their accent, their slang and small cues. It’s usually just not the same with non-native speakers.”

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