Casa Grande district finds teachers from the Philippines to staff school

School is back in session for many schools across Arizona, and some students are starting the year off with a substitute teacher.

The state is experiencing a massive shortage as teachers are leaving the state in droves.

One Arizona district is fixing the problem, and filling those positions by hiring teachers from abroad.

In the Phoenix area alone there're about 1,000 teacher openings. Teachers are fleeing the state because of low pay and low classroom resources; many districts are having a hard time recruiting new teachers because of those same reasons.

The Casa Grande Union High School District has found a pool of highly educated and certified teachers willing to take on the challenge; they're from the Philippines.

Lourdes Dellosa has taught for more than 30 years in the Philippines, but for the last two years she's been teaching math at Casa Grande Union High School. She's one of 16 Filipino teachers at the school this year.

"The teachers that have come to us from the Philippines are absolutely phenomenal, all have got a masters degree in the certified area they are teaching," said Dr. Shannon Goodsell.

The superintendent says without them, the alternative would be to place long-term substitute teachers in classrooms.

"Long term subs are not licensed teachers, the teachers we're putting into the classrooms from the Philippines are all licensed, and endorsed, certified teachers in Arizona for the subject they teach," said Dr. Goodsell.

Every year he travels the state and the country looking to recruit new teachers, but he says recruits keep turning him down.

"There's only so much golf and sunshine you can sell, the bottom line is it all comes down to salary," said Goodsell.

The average nationwide teacher salary in 2013 was just below $50,000, in California the average is about $69,000 and in Nevada $56,000. Arizona's average teacher salary is just below $32,000.

"If we talk about American teachers it's not really that much, but if we're going to convert that into pesos in the Philippines, it's a really good sum of money," said Lourdes Dellosa.

The Filipino salaries range from $34,000 to $46,000 a year. She says though many make enough to pay living expenses, and send money back to their families, many come here for a different reason.

"Money is a secondary motivation, it's more on experience, because you know if you've been teaching for 25 years in the same place, sometimes you want to explore the other side of the globe," said Dellosa.

The superintendent says this is the reality, having to reach out halfway around the world to find qualified teachers who want to work in Arizona classrooms.

The district goes through a recruiting company to find qualified teachers from the Philippines. They choose candidates based on their credentials, resumes, and YouTube videos showing their teaching skills. They then conduct interviews via Skype.

Once a candidate is hired the company helps them with their visas and setting up living arrangements. They then get certified to teach here in Arizona.