A new program launched by World Education Services for internationally trained immigrants and refugees who want to become teachers in the U.S. aims to ease the challenges Shaheen faced.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, more than one in three educators, or 34 percent, are unemployed or not using their degree.

Yet, thousands of teacher vacancies across the country persist — with more than 160,000 jobs filled by under-qualified teachers, according to Kansas State University’s College of Education.

“Even as we experience the Great Resignation, which heavily impacted the education sector, there’s still individuals who want to be part of this workforce,” said Mikaela Santos, senior program manager of World Education Services.

“The cultural perspectives and new ideas immigrants and refugees bring to the table becomes wasted talent because of the many regulatory and systemic barriers in the American education system,” she added.

To combat this problem, three organizations were awarded a $100,000 grant in July 2023 to create pathways for foreign trained teachers to become educators in the U.S.

In the next year, the Asian Community and Cultural Center in Lincoln, Nebraska; the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, Illinois will place more than 150 teachers trained in their home countries at schools in their communities.

Here is a snapshot of each organization’s effort to help internationally trained teachers and address racial disparities in the classroom.

Nearly 50% of Nebraska’s school districts had unfilled teacher positions during the 2022-23 school year — with 66% saying there were either unqualified or no applicants, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

Lee Kreimer, the director of the Asian Community and Cultural Center, said the organization is looking to place at least 35 foreign trained teachers into Nebraska’s Lincoln public schools and South Sioux City public schools.

The need for diverse teachers is especially great in rural areas like South Sioux City that have had a high influx of Latino families immigrating partly because of the meatpacking industry that has historically relied on foreign-born workers, Kreimer said.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a growing 47.8% Latino population in South Sioux City with more than 63.6% Latino students across the district.

“We see this as a great opportunity to tackle multiple challenges at one time and it’s truly a win-win way to help everybody,” Kreimer told The 74.

The organization recently set up programs at schools in both districts for immigrants and refugees to be mentored as they finish up their U.S. teaching licenses.

“Investing in schools by providing teachers that look like their students helps them succeed,” Kreimer said. “And from a racial equity standpoint, children seeing teachers that look like them and have experiences like them helps with retention, staying out of trouble and getting better grades.”

Read the full article about immigrants and teacher shortages by Joshua Bay at The 74.