Filipino teachers join Avoyelles Middle Schools
Bunkie -- Rosario Lubanga can't help but smile.
The teacher is worlds away from her home, but still she smiles, saying, "We believe we can make a difference here."
And the Avoyelles Parish School District agrees.
Lubanga is one of the eight teachers from the Philippines who will be teaching at Bunkie Middle School this year. They will join four others who will be teaching at Marksville Middle School.
They come to the rural Louisiana parish's middle schools with certification in need-specific areas, such as special education and English. Some have master's degrees and a few including Lubanga have earned a doctorate.
"These teachers will be an asset for our middle schools," Avoyelles Parish Schools Superintendent Dwayne Lemoine said.
Lemoine was having trouble finding certified teachers willing to teach in his parish's middle schools. He said there is an educator shortage and that Avoyelles Parish is surrounded by parishes that pay their teachers more.
The middle schools also have been a problem area for the parish with slipping standardized tests scores and overhauls done for budget cuts. The schools have not had librarians, assistant principals and counselors, nor have they offered electives such as agriculture or home economics.
Initially, the district planned to move the middle schools onto the high school campuses so the two could share resources. The problem, district officials say, has been money. The plan was halted because the parish is under a federal desegregation lawsuit and the plan is being reviewed.
In the interim, Lemoine has said, the middle schools will not be the same when students return this fall as the parish cannot afford for them to be.
This year, Bunkie Middle School made the state's "academically unacceptable" list because of its standarized test scores, attendance and dropout rates.
Some of the changes that will be made in the coming school year in Avoyelles, which begins Monday include:
Every middle school will have a dean of students who is in charge of discipline.
The schools will use the teaming concept, in which teachers work together to address the needs of the students.
Technology has been purchased for the middle schools that will allow online assistance programs for students falling behind and allow teachers who work with their peers from across the nation on strategies that are working in their classrooms.
Lemoine is pushing the house certified and highly qualified teachers in the middle schools, and that includes the teachers fro the Philippines.
The superintendent heard about Universal Placement International during a recent superintendents meeting. Other parishes such as Caddo and East Baton Rouge have used the service.
The school district sent its needs to the company, and applicants' information was sent back.
"I never would have dreamed this in a million years," said Barbara Z. Jones, supervisor of elementary education. "This is so exciting, and they have been a joy."
Jones has been working with the new teachers to help them get settled into their communities.
She said the district feels the new teachers are helping them, while the new teachers say Avoyelles Parish is helping them.
"This is a career advancement for us," said Maria Grace de la Cruz, an eighth-grade English teacher. "We want to win their hearts and their respect."
Rosalyn Andaya said she is a little nervous about the first day of school.
"We are ready to face the challenge and help out here," she said.
The new teachers at Bunkie Middle are all living together and initially will be walking to school as they do not have a vehicle.
May left families back home but are staying in tough through Internet and cell phones.
"We are feeling more at home here," Lubanga said.
The teachers will be at their schools for a year, and Jones said may hope to remain in the United States and bring their families to this country.
Author: Mandy Goodnight
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