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A Filipina Teacher Hired to Teach in the USA

My Cebu-based 44 year old, sister-in-law is leaving for Louisiana, USA on Thursday as a special education teacher for a suburban public high school. It came as a pleasant surprise to her. The US hiring agency informed her of an opening on July 4. She got interviewed via Skype by a panel of 10 where questions like “How do you apply technology in the classroom?” and others were asked of her. Distracted by the faces floating in the Skype window, she minimized it and focused on the camera to make eye contact with the school staff. She made the cut and from then on, a flurry of documentation fell into place . Her H-1 visa was released last thursday. A total of $3,000 placement fee was all she paid to the US-based agency.

The timing could not have been more perfect. Her only child is graduating this year and will get the chance to join his mom after graduation. I feel sad that one more good teacher is leaving our country. Her qualifications are nothing to sneeze at. She has a bachelors degree in English, a Masters degree in Education and a doctorate degree in Special Education but her salary is a pittance. I think call center employees earn more. I can’t blame her for leaving. After all these years, she has yet to build her own house.

My brother died in 1999 and since then she had to struggle living as a single mom. Sure, she can take a break now and take it easy once her son graduates. The chance for a new life seems like one great adventure not to mention the salary. The offer of a lucrative monthly salary that is almost equivalent to 7 months here was just too good of an offer to pass up. I didn’t know US teachers are paid so highly, but she is quick to say that US public school teachers are paid higher than private school teachers.


I don’t think the same applies in our country, anyway. In an attempt to somehow curb the trend of the country’s best teachers leaving for overseas jobs, bills have been filed in Congress seeking to upgrade the salary rates of teachers. However, the proposed rates still pales in comparison with the salary offers overseas.

“Our teachers are not accorded due recognition and importance they deserve, their salaries are insultingly low and with the high cost of living today, it is no wonder that the best and brightest among them are now teaching abroad, or worse, have migrated to work as caregivers or domestic helpers,” said Caloocan City Rep. Mary Mitzi L. Cajayon, author of House Bill 800 (““Act Upgrading the Minimum Salary Grade Level of Public School Teachers in the Elementary And Secondary Levels from Grade 10 to 15”) at the House of Representatives.

The proposed salary adjustment does not seem adequate to entice emigrating teachers to just stay or come back home.

In the United States, for instance, a Filipino teacher in Maryland is offered a starting annual salary of $43,481 (roughly equivalent to P1.8 million), making it a much coveted slot for many teachers from the Philippines.

For hundreds of Filipino teachers who have given up on their disproportionate salaries in the country, a future in the United States seems to be the best option.

Filipino teachers are highly esteemed abroad and are paid up to 10 times their salaries in the Philippines.

What does the sacrifice entail for my sister-in-law?

1. She does not get to see her son every 5 months as they used to but…if her son wants to live in the USA, she can bring him over through an H1-family visa.

2. She will have to cope with a totally different culture and learning environment as well. Louisiana is known to have an almost 90% black population. I don’t know if it is a blessing but she will be assigned to special children. Will that make her life easier?

3. She has no family or friends in the same state but she can make new friends, right?

My sister-in-law and her son enjoying their last few moments before her flight

As we talked over the despedida lunch I hosted this afternoon, she shared her apprehensions.

It will be a totally new life for me. I can’t be the same person as I was in Cebu.

I reassured her You can do it. You can reinvent yourself. Look at me, I never imagined myself starting a business in my forties…being a blogger and more.

She assessed herself and says she can still do it. It’s a mid-life challenge. Everything just fell into place. When my brother was dying in 1999, he asked his siblings to help her when he is gone. I don’t think my sister-in-law needed help. She was just waiting for the right time. Timing can be frustrating, right? We can wait and wait for something to happen, and it seems to be forever until comes to pass. Or suddenly, an event or circumstance is thrust upon us by surprise. Believing that things happen too slowly or too quickly is an illusion.

Timing is perfect.

This is her time.

I pray her life as a Filipina teacher abroad will be a fruitful experience. I hope her new job will be worth the challenge and the sacrifice of being away from home, family and friends.

If I were in her shoes, I’d also take the opportunity to move to the USA if it meant bringing my whole family with me. Would you?

18 thoughts on “A Filipina Teacher Hired to Teach in the USA”

  1. As long as the filipino has the skill that is in demand in the U.S then the future will be bright for them, especially for the children. I was talking to another immigrant in the office and we both agreed that life might be easier to the parents to stay in their home country if they live the good life back there but the learning exposure that their children (especially if they’re still small) will get here can not be compared, especially if the parents take advantage of it. The worst enemy here is really loneliness especially in the first years. I think it is extremely difficult to forge friendships in the same level as we have in the Philippines mainly because life is very hectic and everybody else is far away. I hope your SIL will find filipina friends or will be coming with a batch of other filipina teachers because that will help. Congratulations to her.

    geris last blog post..A Dream House Disappoints

  2. Your post hit a spot in me. Like our teachers, nurses like me are overworked and severely underpaid that’s why when we get the chance, we fly the coop for greener pastures. And while the monetary return we get by working abroad is just plain great, I find myself missing home and wishing the situation was better so that we wouldn’t have to leave our families and our good old Pinas.

    CandyQs last blog post..sister dear

  3. hi noemi,

    contrary to popular belief, from where i’m at, the public school teachers are not being paid that well. they just had a recent budget cut, and it’s very sad. the teachers here are not being paid well, and some of them are leaving the profession. some stay for the children. if you’re not in a good area, chance is that the school will rank poorly. there’s also the issue that the teachers can’t cope with the increasing number of special children who have special needs. i will have to move from one city to another just to find a better school since private school here will just eat up our budget.

    i’m glad she took this opportunity, her skills would be beneficial to those in need here. and i hope she is paid well. and she’ll be fine, we filipinas are very resilient. and it’s a good thing she can bring her son here. being in the US is more than just having better opportunity, it’s also seeing in the world in a different perspective. it’s amazing how many time i’ve been humbled by the people i met here. more power to her. and it’s not that lonely here, people are just more busy.

    issais last blog post..Child support in the Philippines

  4. Congratulations to your SIL. I wish her the best. 🙂

    I have been trying to do that too but my perfect time has not arrived yet. I am not sure if its just me and my apprehensions or if it is really God’s plan to delay me. Plus I don’t have 5x the amount (estimated costs by the agency here) she paid for the agency.

    All my scholastic records and necessary certifications are ready but the call for me has not been made yet.

    I hope my perfect time would come up too.

  5. @geri- Given my comfortable situation, I chose the Philippines despite the fact that I was petitioned by my father. My comfort level lies in the Philippines. But if I were in my sister in law’s shoes, I’d take the chance.

    @candy- I don’t blame the OFWs who move to other countries for greener pastures. There is a sacrifice involved and it is never an easy decision.

    @fitz- oh thank you fitz. I forgot to renew!

    @issai- I don’t really know if there was a cut. But compared to the US private schools that offered a job to my SIL, the public school gave higher wages.

    @Julie- maybe you should get the US hiring agency who charges lesser fees. I will get the name as soon as my SIL is settled in the USA. Your perfect time will come.

  6. Ms. Noemi,

    I would have to say Congratulations to your SIL, and yet, I am saddened that another good competent teacher is leaving. That’s how I felt when my friend, also an English major who had good credentials, left for Maryland.

    Given your SIL’s situation, this is a perfect opportunity for her and her son. She is well-equipped for the job and the challenge, unlike many who are not and therefore end up being victimized or getting paid such small sums. That’s why the Institute of Labor Studies emphasized before that there’s a risk to highlighting the “heroic” part of being an OFW without discussing whether he/she is ready for the risks and challenges ahead.

    lemons last blog post..forever babies in Mama’s eyes

  7. I thought only in my country where teachers are paid low. Even, most of supporting teacher which place in remote area hired temporarily…I could not understand why this very important peoples are oftenly neglected. Anyway, I’m happy for your sister. I believe her career will shining more and more. Good luck for her.

  8. reality check:

    most of my high school teachers are now teaching in US leaving what they call as “fullfilling but undercompensated” job here.

    my brother has a good but not lucrative business here in our province but still opted to seek greener pasture in US and now lives there with his family.

    i don’t want to leave Pinas but i hate to admit it, there is really limited opportunity to grow here.

    lawstudes last blog post..Cabanatuan City – How About My Place?

  9. I work as a call center agent. And been talking to Americans all throughout my shift is just a sting to my ear! Some of them would even depreciate their country and would rather come to the Philippines. They said, the American dream doesn’t hold true nowadays. Even asking relatives who are now in the US would say, they rather go home if it’s not for the pay and family. For me, for as long as I could eat 3 times a day and to my stuff, it’s enough.

  10. As every people say, Filipinos are very pliant, pliant as a bamboo. That can survive in any different ways. I think being apart from their family gives them the enthusiasm to make their job better to give their family a good life.

  11. Hello! This is an interesting article about your sister. I wish her all the best.

    Could please give me some details about the agency that hired her? Thanks!

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