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Going International: HISD welcomes international teachers to district

  • HISD
Going International: HISD welcomes international teachers to district
HISD Communications

Amidst a nationwide teacher shortage with no end in sight, Hitchcock ISD has found a unique solution for a few of its toughest-to-fill teaching vacancies. Through International Expert Resources’ Teacher Exchange Program, the district was able to find three international teachers to educate our students at Hitchcock High School come August 14, 2023.

Amelia Bencomo, Stephan Blam, and Isaac Dery applied through the IER’s Teacher Exchange Program hoping for a chance to come to the United States and gain a new perspective, understand new cultures, as well as share their own with our students. Those hopes became reality when they each received word that they had been hired.
Bencomo brings more than 24 years of teaching experience with her to the States, having previously taught in Belize, the only English-speaking country in Central America.

“I looked at this as an opportunity to learn and also to bring some of my own expertise as it relates to teaching strategies and best practices I have gained through the years in Belize's educational system,”said Bencomo. “I also look forward to embracing cultural diversity with the goal of engaging my students in cross-cultural activities in order for them to understand the importance of appreciating culture from a global standpoint and the valuable contributions they can make.”

Blam joins from South Africa, bringing 12 years of experience, while Dery hails from Ghana with 11 years of experience.

Upon their arrival, the three teachers were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support they received, and are still receiving, from the staff community of Hitchcock ISD. HISD’s Assistant Superintendent, Michael Skinner, coordinated the entire process for the teachers, helping them get settled. When doing this, Skinner turned to HISD’s staff to help provide them with all of the essentials they would need. While he thought he may have to turn to the City of Hitchcock’s community, the HISD staff proved this to be false when in just a few days time, they had
donated enough items to furnish a shared home for Blam and Dery, and an apartment for

“I’ve been blown away by the support,” said Bencomo. “Coming from another country isn’t easy, no matter the distance. I was having doubts and worrying about whether people would be warm and welcoming, and it has blown my mind how great everyone has been.”

In addition to feeling such a magnitude of support from their new colleagues, the three were just as blown away when shown their new working location at Hitchcock High School and their classrooms.

“They were so unbelievably appreciative their first days on campus as we toured them through the school and showed them their classrooms they’d be working in day in and day out,” said Dr. Suzette Neeley, Principal of Hitchcock High School. “For us who are from the States, we can sometimes take everything we have for granted, so it really put things into perspective when seeing their eyes light up at what we’re able to provide for them.”

Though we think it could just be our good ol’ southern hospitality on display, Blam did specifically note what has stood out to him since arriving in the States, saying, “Something that has been wonderful to me is the smiles I’ve seen. Everyone smiles in American culture and lights up your day. You meet someone, and they smile and greet you and it just starts your day off on a good note.”

Bencomo, Blam, and Dery will teach Spanish, Science, and Math at the high school, respectively, during their three year term with IER. At the end of the third year, each of them will have the opportunity to request two more years, bringing their max up to five.

“We are so excited to kick off the 2023-24 school year and show them what Hitchcock is all about,” said Superintendent Travis Edwards. “Not many schools get the opportunity to welcome international teachers into their classrooms, so we feel very fortunate to be able to provide this opportunity not only to these three teachers, but to all of our students who will have their classes as well.”

According to the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) most recent data through the 2021-22 school year, the State of Texas employed more than 376,000 teachers across more than 1,200 school districts and charters, and almost 9,000 campuses. Of that, just 226 Visiting International Teacher (VIT) Certificates were issued. Now, Hitchcock ISD has three wonderful international teachers.

As we say around here, what starts here can change the world.