Dallas ISD continues to be a trailblazer in the field of international recruiting and recently visited Panama City, Panama, to find outstanding bilingual educators to lead district classrooms.
“This was a way to expand the district’s international recruiting efforts, given the current teacher shortage, specifically in the areas of bilingual and special education,” said Rafael Fontalvo, director of the Staffing Department, whose efforts and connections were recently featured in a local story.
To help get the word out that the district was in Panama to recruit teachers, Fontalvo, who is originally from Panama, appeared on TVN, a national television station in Panama City. The response was successful, as over 150 persons attended the information sessions.
“It drives us to explore other markets in countries such as Panama, where educators are bilingual and biliterate, which is an area that our school district needs, specifically in the dual language program,” said Diana Castañeda, manager of the Recruitment Department. “Knowing that we have one of the largest dual language programs in the nation, it is important for us to sustain and meet those needs of the students so they can continue to have successful outcomes.”
In past years, the district has recruited teachers in Mexico and Puerto Rico, but this is the first time the district has taken the recruitment efforts to Panama.
The district chose Panama based on data from the last couple of years that indicated where bilingual candidates had come from internationally, according to Steven Jackson, director of the Recruitment Department.
“Each year, we analyze data to identify new markets that we haven’t tapped into, and we notice that there were high quality teachers that came from both Panama and Colombia. Based off our analysis, we decided for the 2023-2024 recruitment season that we would start focusing our international recruitment efforts in these countries,” said Jackson.
Jackson says that in these international recruitment efforts, they look for veteran teachers with a minimum of two years teaching experience.
“They know the pedagogy that’s needed to be successful in our classroom. We bring veteran teachers that have the knowledge and experience in their home country, not just novice teachers,” he explained.
“We were able to talk about the H-1B and J-1 visa programs and had a lot of high-quality candidates come to our information sessions. We were able to interview over 50 candidates for bilingual and special education positions in Panama City,” said Jackson.
As part of the process, the candidates must meet a few minimum requirements through the Texas Education Agency, Castañeda said.
“We are bringing top talent to our classrooms and ensuring that the teachers can relate to the culture of our students as well,” she said. “Because they speak Spanish, they are able to communicate with our students as well as their parents, and this is very important to us.”
Fontalvo echoes the sentiment: “Something that’s very interesting about Panama is we have a lot of Afro Latinos that speak Spanish. From an equity perspective, a lot of our students will be able to see
someone in front of them that looks like them, which is very empowering for our students and families.”
As far as next steps, preparations are being made for the teachers to begin working for the district in the 2023-2024 school year. According to Castañeda, the district is currently interviewing, screening and vetting candidates, who will work primarily in the areas of bilingual elementary and special education.
“I’m very excited about these opportunities that continue to build Dallas ISD as an international brand,” Fontalvo said. “We’re very excited to go in this direction, as we’re tapping into teacher pipelines that weren’t available in the past.”