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Celia Jiménez here, thinking about an issue Covid-19 has highlighted in the region and nationwide: The need for qualified teachers. 

In Monterey County, bilingual and special education teachers are in especially high demand, and not all positions have been filled. Schools say the limited pool of recent graduates with teaching credentials means there aren’t enough teachers to meet their needs.

At Alisal Unified School District—which has a robust dual immersion program—bilingual, special education teachers and therapists and migrant intervention teachers are especially sought-after. Ricardo Cabrera, associate superintendent of human resources at AUSD, says his district works with local universities to engage applicants in the educational field, specifically in bilingual and special education programs. “We have a couple of partnership [state] grants that help us recruit in-place teachers,” he says.

AUSD needs migrant intervention teachers because the district serves more than 750 migrant students currently in grades K-6. Migrant students are those who move from school to school during the same school year because of their parents’ occupation. Many of them are the sons and daughters of farmworkers, and they move from one region to another following the harvest season every year. 

Having to adapt to a new routine every few months can make school more challenging. Students lose continuity in their education and need help to fill in those educational gaps, Cabrera says. 

In the classroom, the regular teacher identifies which students are migrants and shares this information with the migrant intervention specialists. They then make a plan, based on each kid's needs, and help them get up to speed with learning English, reading comprehension and solving math problems.

Cabrera says the disconnect is greater when kids go to schools in different states: “We might be teaching certain math standards here than they do in Arizona.”

This year, AUSD is offering a new way to aid migrant students: They started an afterschool program to help students who may be behind catch up. Several district staff were once migrant students themselves, and so they recognize the importance of additional help and instruction.

The lack of teachers not only impacts the quality of education, but also takes a toll on the teachers who are working, who have to juggle their jobs while covering for colleagues.

Alisal is currently recruiting over 20 migrant intervention teachers. They are seeking bilingual individuals with at least a 30-day substitute teacher credential. Cabrera says anyone interested should contact him directly at ricardo.cabrera@alisal.org.

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