LAKELAND, Fla. - Teachers from all over the world are filling a major need in Polk County. The district struggled to fill teaching vacancies locally so they looked abroad for help and found approximately 60 educators willing to relocate to Polk County.
It's a cultural mix of educators from all over the world now in one place: Polk County Schools.
"It exposes them to different cultures, different teaching techniques," McLaughlin Middle School Principal Dr. Debra Wright-Hudson said.
Students are now getting a one-of-a-kind learning experience from a more worldly point of view.
"The students win when they gain a qualified teacher in a critical subject area. The teachers win. They get to share strategies and learn new things. The schools win by gaining certified qualified educators," TPG Cultural Exchange Chief Operating Officer Sujata Gidumal said.
Monday night, the 60 teachers from eight different countries were officially welcomed with a special banquet at the Polk Museum of Art.
"It's my dream to be here in the United States of America. Ever since I was a little kid I envisioned myself to be a teacher here," said Philippines native Angelbert Mariano, who's now teaching middle school. He has never been to the U.S. before now.
Polk County holds reception for new group of international teachers
As for Jamaican native Latoya Campbell, her second-grade class has been teaching her just as much as she's been teaching them.
"I'm having a wonderful time. It's a beautiful experience. I've learned a lot that I can take home when I go back to share with my home country," Campbell said.
As part of the TPG Cultural Exchange program, the teachers are provided with housing and employed under J-1 visas. It's a major help to the nationwide teacher shortage the district has felt first-hand.
Superintendent Fred Heid hopes it can remind people of the importance of public education.
"We're going to have to do a better job of marketing public education and all the benefits that people get from it. It is a true investment. It is a calling. People don't go into education for the monetary reward. They go into it because many of them are servant leaders," Heid said.