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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

A Filipina teacher in Arizona

Desperately short of teachers, Bullhead City, Arizona schools is importing teachers from the Philippines. They've received "outstanding" ratings and have master's degrees. But they're used to students who want to learn.

In An American education, Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow profiles the struggles of Rose Jean Obreque, who's hired to teach seventh-grade English in Arizona. (Yes, English is her second language.)

Teacher pay is very low in the Philippines and classes are very large.

Bullhead City schools received an F rating before the pandemic, writes Saslow. "Fewer than 20 percent of students were proficient in either English or math, and more than half were performing at least a few years below their grade level."

Now it's worse. "After years of remote and hybrid learning, some of the students had come back to school full time in 2021 with little sense of how to act in a classroom," he reports. "Disruptions had been constant. Suspensions had nearly doubled." Teachers quit and were hard to replace.

Obreque steps in a few weeks into the school year, teaching students who've seen a rotating cast of substitutes and fill-in teachers.

In one lesson, Obreque asks a student to read about how Ho Chi Minh was inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Why did he feel that way?

The students stared back at her.
“Why America? What is so special about America?”
“Fast cash and fast food,” one student said.
“Okay, yes. Fast food is an export. But what makes this country great?”
She waited for a moment as the students began to talk to each other, write notes, fold airplanes, bounce in their seats, stare off into space and rest their heads on their desks, until finally one girl raised her hand and stood from her seat. “Bathroom?” she asked, and Obreque nodded and turned back to the class.
“America is a beacon of freedom, is it not?” she asked. “You have education. You have independence. You can achieve anything, right?”
She looked around the room and found no raised hands, no answers, nothing at all to quiet her own rising doubt, so she attempted the question again. “Isn’t America supposed to be a model for the world?” she asked.

It's a brilliant piece of reporting. And very depressing.

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