• January 21, 2020

Teachers from India find satisfaction at Permian - Odessa American: ECISD

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Teachers from India find satisfaction at Permian

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  • Recruiting Internationally

    From left, Dr. Charles Pachimala, Santhi Mandapati, and Usharani Hallauarapu, stand for their portrait in the hallway at Permian High School. With over 300 teaching job openings at ECISD, teachers from international countries such as Mexico, Jamaica, the Philippines, and other countries, have been hired to try to help fill the gap.

Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2020 5:00 am

To help fill its more than 300 teacher job openings, Ector County ISD is looking internationally.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Gregory Nelson said the district has recruited teachers from Spain for many years and is looking in Mexico, Jamaica, the Philippines, Canada and India, among other locations.

Two of the teachers from India, Usharani Mallavarapu and Santhi Mandapati, are at Permian High School.

Mallavarapu arrived in August when school opened. She is from the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India.

Initially, Mallavarapu said she saw an advertisement on the ECISD website about recruiting teachers. She thought it would be a good cultural exchange for her where she could learn about the culture here, understand the educational methods and take that experience back to India with her.

Mallavarapu said she also wanted to impart of some her culture to the students in Odessa. She will be here for three years, and if everything goes well, another two.

She has been teaching physics for 17 years, but she also has been a teacher trainer.

“The subject that I teach should be given as per the understanding and the … learning style of the student. Each student learns in their own style, so my preparation of the lessons should be to meet of the needs of the each child’s learning style,” Mallavarapu said. “Back in India, I taught in a college so there is a huge classroom. Here, when I see 30 kids, 35 kids it’s a smaller classroom. The physical set up is also encouraging me to implement certain learning styles.”

She observed that the school district here takes care of the schools and the government in India doesn’t care for them as much, hence the rise of private schools. Students study a bit more in depth in India than here.

Mandapati, who has taught for 10 years at the university level, is teaching English at PHS. She is from Hyderabad, India.

She said being here is a dream for her and she is very interested in developing the students in every aspect. Mandapati said this is one of the best opportunities of her life.

The educational system in India compared to Texas is different. She said she creates activities to meet the needs of different kinds of students.

“… It has changed my educational style a lot. My perspective has changed a lot,” Mandapati said.

Since she’s been in Odessa, she’s learned about “do now” activities to keep students engaged.

“After that, I keep going. I’ve discovered many activities to keep them engaged to make them learn and they keep changing all the time throughout the day,” Mandapati said.

“This is the best part of learning for me.”

Also, coming from India to West Texas has broadened her outlook to deal with problems of some of the students as well as getting educational material that is going to help students in India.

She noted that the experience she has had here will benefit her when she returns to India.

“I don’t know much about it, but I love the place,” Mandapati said of Odessa. “I love the people here and students I tell them every day I love all the kids here. That’s the main thing that makes me speak with the parents also. I call them I tell (them about) the well being of the kids. I do it in India. Maybe at first glance I felt like there was no need to call the parents unless and until there is any problem, but I made additional calls to (give updates) about the kid(s). The mothers are very happy about that. They appreciate it.”

She said a lot of patience is needed to deal with the students.

“And you need to be very creative … The kids are good … They are smart. But the only thing we have to do is find a way … to put them in the class, how to keep them engaged and interested in learning. Once we bring them to the task of learning, they are quite good. They are smart. (You just) have to bring them to the part of the learning. That’s the toughest thing. The way that we guide them through the activities has to be very right. They deviate you, but you have to work on a different way,” Mandapati said.

Nelson said around 2014-15, there were a just three teachers from India. But in 2018-19, he was approached about the opportunity to consider increasing that number. His department worked to secure a recruiter who had offices in India and he did a lot of “ground-level” recruiting in India.

A new J-1 visa provider was also contracted who was experienced in more international recruiting, which made for a better relationship with our recruiter and the J-1 sponsor.

“And again, we fixed some things in house to provide better up front practices, including our screening of those candidates, principal screening of those candidates and then process once they’re selected and more support once stateside,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the first group recruited had about 37 teachers, but they wound up getting about 25 to the states.

“… We’re identifying all certification barriers and making sure that those barriers no longer exist before the principals interview them and that’s going to help. It hasn’t borne fruit yet, but I think it will. … (We’re) more focused on certification and eligibility to come to the states. Then once they clear that hurdle then they will be interviewed by a team in India with the contractor that we work with. … Once they’re interviewed by the team in India, then they will also be interviewed by the J-1 sponsor for the permission to travel to make sure those requirements are all in place. … Once we get a green light that all those things were successful, that particular candidate will be able to be interviewed by principals,” Nelson said.

“We kind of do that in a teaming aspect. We’re going to try to get someone on the ground to facilitate those interviews this year instead of it all being by Skype. But even if it all is by Skype, someone will be in the room with the candidates while our principals interview them. Then we record those interviews, so if a principal happens to not be able to make it to that interview they’re recorded they can then go back and watch it. They can then make contact with that candidate on their own in order to make an offer, so those are some of the changes we’ve made,” Nelson said.

Thirty is the number of teachers ECISD is shooting for, but that had not been finalized. He said that would have been done in December for future recruitment.

ECISD also is expanding its reach into the Philippines and Jamaica where a small pool of candidates has been identified.

Some countries have specific rules in place on recruiting and how long a teacher can stay.

“Other international recruitment sometimes is not as specific and doesn’t require their country’s intervention, but we’ve identified a special recruiting platform for the Philippines, Spain, India and with Mexico it’s similar but that’s not the federal government. In Mexico, primarily it’s the universities so we’ve developed a relationship with the major universities in Mexico so we can make sure we cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s as it relates to recruiting people from Mexico to come to the United States on a J1 or H1B visa …,” Nelson said.

Teachers are not limited by grade level, but it depends on their background and qualifications.

“We always try to make sure that the candidate that is being recruited and would come and teach something that is in their wheelhouse, something that they’re experienced with, something they’re comfortable with and something our kids can benefit from,” Nelson said.

That has resulted in more secondary placements for teachers from India, but teachers from Spain tend to be placed teaching bilingual education at the elementary level.

Permian Principal Danny Gex said things have gone well so far. There are five or six teachers from India on staff.

“They are very appreciative and grateful for the chance to come here to America and teach. (They are) very hard workers as they don’t take anything for granted,” Gex said in a text message.

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