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International teachers to fill rural teaching vacancies this school year

Exterior of Nome Elementary School, an off-white building with a smiling polar bear as its mascot.
Exterior of Nome Elementary School, August 22, 2018. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

Teacher turnover in the United States has been rising in recent years, significantly impacting rural communities in Alaska. Nome Public Schools hired six international teachers to address vacancies this school year. A study by George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research revealed that immigrants comprise 11% of all teachers in the United States.

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the employment rate for kindergarten and elementary schools is projected to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031. Despite this growth, the decade is expected to see over 120,000 annual openings for these positions. Jamie Burgess, Superintendent of Nome Public Schools, noted in an emailed statement that there’s a record rate of teachers leaving the profession and the pool of US-based teachers has been rapidly shrinking.

Among the recruited teachers, four will be assigned to Nome Elementary School, one to Nome-Beltz High School, and one to the Nome Preschool. However, as of now, five teachers are still awaiting their visas and cannot travel to Nome. Burgess mentioned that the preschool teacher from Kenya is likely to arrive earlier due to a shorter visa process, and they are hopeful she’ll be present when the preschool term starts.

Once the six teachers arrive, Nome Public Schools will have only one vacancy, which is for the English/Reading role at the elementary school. In October of the previous year, 45% of public schools reported having vacant teaching positions. Burgess shared that the school is actively seeking long-term substitute teachers to address this.

To enhance connectivity, Nome Public Schools implemented a OneWeb backup system and is actively working to increase the necessary bandwidth for school operations. They are conducting teacher training through video conferencing and resource sharing. Burgess noted that there will be a brief onboarding period in Nome before the teachers step into their classrooms.

Nome Public Schools begin instruction for students on Monday, September 5th. With an almost full staff roster and an expanding internet bandwidth, NPS teachers and students are eager to begin the school year in a few weeks.

Photo at top: Exterior of Nome Elementary School, August 22, 2018. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

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