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Kodiak Island Borough School District welcomes a group of teachers from the Philippines as staffing struggles persist

Kodiak High School. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)
Kodiak High School. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

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The first day of school for Kodiak students is next week. And teachers in the Kodiak Island Borough School District are busily preparing for the upcoming year – including a group of newly arrived teachers from the Philippines.

Nori De Asis has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. She’s been a physical education teacher in the Philippines for the last decade. And five years ago, she decided that she wanted to teach in the United States.

The pandemic delayed those plans, but she recently applied for a job with Kodiak High School. And she was hired as the physical education teacher for this school year.

“I am so excited for the incoming school year. I am looking forward to the students,” De Asis said. “I am looking forward to the children. And we are all very excited.”

De Asis is one of seven educators hired by the Kodiak Island Borough School District under J1 cultural exchange visas. The visas allow the teachers to work in the United States for two years before returning to the Philippines.

These teachers are a breath of fresh air for the district which has faced significant staffing shortages across all positions. KIBSD superintendent Cindy Mika says the district will likely hire more teachers from the Philippines in the future to try and fill the vacancies.

According to De Asis, teaching in the United States is not so different from teaching in the Philippines.

“Since we are all teachers, we know that our first priority is the student. We do this for the students. The big difference is all of our resources are provided by the school district,” De Asis said. “And I am so thankful with the Kodiak Island Borough School District because we are well provided, the materials are already here.”

Kodiak is a long way from the Philippines in more ways than one; according to De Asis the new teachers flew for more than 24 hours to get to Kodiak. De Asis says the weather is also very different from the Philippines’ tropical climate. Even so, she says that Kodiak already feels like home.

“We have attended a lot of welcome parties, the community here is very kind, we feel that we are a part of a family,” De Asis said. “It feels so warm. So, so nice. You don’t feel homesick, because everyone here is very kind and very accommodating.”

Kodiak teachers – and students – head back to school soon. The first day of class is Monday, Aug. 29 for middle and high schoolers. Elementary school students return to school on Tuesday, Aug. 30.