Duval County schools recruits overseas to fill teacher shortage

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Anatomy and physiology are subjects most students dread, but you can’t tell by the smiles and laughs inside Mr. Charles Magdaluyo’s classroom. The students at Ribault High School call him Mr. M.

“The energy that you give is the energy that you receive in the classroom,” Mr. M said.

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It’s a lesson of respect that works both ways. One he said is not always taught in the Philippines, where he is from. He was a teacher there for about four years.

“America has been my dream though,” he told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant.

That dream became a reality four years ago through a partnership between Duval County Public Schools and Educational Partners International (EPI) and TPG Cultural Exchange.

There are currently 122 international teachers in Duval County classrooms as a result of the programs.

EPI works with schools in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said the international recruitment has helped overcome a diminishing pool of teacher candidates locally.

”Utilizing these innovative approaches is helping us to sort of put a stop-gap in trying to support our students,“ she said.

A retiring workforce, limited students entering the education industry, and COVID-19 concerns have highlighted the desperate need for teachers.

Dr. Greene said pre-pandemic, there would be about 70 vacancies this time of year. Currently, there are nearly 400.

While the international program helps the district solve the teacher shortage, Mr. M said it also teaches students a lesson beyond the books.

“Kids can learn from people from different parts of the world, so they are able to see the tradition, the culture.”

He joined DCPS in 2018 and was part of the first group with the EPI program. He has helped mentor other teachers coming to the States from overseas.

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The program only lasts five years and he will move back home next year, but said he will never forget Duval.

“These are things that I don’t want to lose and I’m just grateful for it,” he said.

The smiles in his classroom are one of the reasons he was named one of the five finalists for the Teacher of the Year, which will be announced Jan. 22.