SACRAMENTO, CA — Summer time for Emelina Emaas means she can enjoy the afternoon with her family at their home in Rancho Cordova, California.
Because normally at this time of day during the school year, she’s with her students at John F. Kennedy High School.
And as they talk, Emaas says she never thought she would find herself living and working in the US.
“I did it, but I didn’t really know that I would qualify for the paper qualifications but it happened through God’s mercy.”
Emaas worked in the Philippines for 27 years before she was recruited to teach in Sacramento. The 2017-2018 school year will be her 16th year teaching in the US.
And now the Sacramento City Unified School District is looking at the Philippines to find more qualified teachers like Emaas to teach students with special needs.
Chief communications officer Alex Barrios of Sacramento City Unified says the Philippines was chosen because of the abundance of competent teachers there.
“Their educational curriculum lines up really well with ours. Many of our Filipino teachers have gone through the exact same curriculum we teach here in the United States, and they speak English,” Barrios said.
Doctor Ligaya Avenida of Avenida International Consultants brought Emaas, and countless other teachers like her, to schools across the US over the past 19 years.
She adds that Filipino teachers are sought after because of their passion and creativity.
“They have this attitude about caring and going over and above what they need to do,” she said. “And they really go out of the way to help the child.”
Avenida says Filipino teachers jump on the chance to teach in the US because of the fair labor practices and the financial opportunity.
“One, that they pay them the same salary as any other teacher in that school. They cannot pay them less. Two, they have establishing benefits, health and everything else. So you contrast that with what they’re making and say you’re here in California — I’ve seen the offer come in at $55,000, $50,000. And $50,000 you wouldn’t earn in your lifetime.”
Teachers like Emaas were recruited under the J-1 non-immigrant visa program — that will permit the teachers to work in the US for an initial three-year period.
But like Emaas, many recruited foreign teachers are committed to building lives in the communities where they work for the long term.
According to Barrios — so far, Sacramento City Unified have been impressed with the Filipino teachers that were brought over, and look forward to continuing the partnership with the Philippines.
“We’ve been very grateful for the help we’ve received from those teachers, who made the sacrifice to travel all the way to the United States, and in some cases leaving family and friends behind to come work here,” Barrios said.
Emaas offers this piece of advice for all the Filipino teachers who are on their way to work in the US
“Just do your best. Be yourself, and have the right attitude towards work, and keep up the good work that you started in the Philippines.”