A couple months into the school year and Oklahoma City Public Schools officials said they are still in need of teachers, especially, in math and science. Earlier this year, the district hired several educators from Spain, and Puerto Rico is the next place. This time, the district got a little help from Hollywood.
Actress Lymari Nadal, known for her roles alongside some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, has become a game changer in the way Oklahoma City Public Schools recruits teachers. She is married to famed actor Edward James Olmos, and currently lives in Oklahoma.
"She was telling us about the number of unemployed teachers, actually to the tune of about 1,500 unemployed teachers that are bilingual and highly educated in the field," said OKCPS Director of Recruitment Shannon Freeman.
Nadal put the district on to the jobless teacher plight in her hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico, which couldn't come at a better time since Oklahoma City has numerous teacher openings.
So the district followed her lead by seeking out applicants overseas.
"We're interested to get to Ponce and conduct some interviews face-to-face and hold some on-site interviews before we make a final determination and start offering contracts next year," Freeman said.
Close to 50% of the Oklahoma City Public Schools student body is Hispanic, so the more bilingual educators, the better.
"With the younger students, it's a benefit to, not only the student but the parent to be able to communicate in a different language because these students are coming in and can't comprehend anything that the teacher maybe saying if their home language is Spanish," said Elementary Education team leader Erica Alvarez.
The district hired 13 teachers from Spain, and said the potential Puerto Rican teachers will have a much easier transition.
“They are more familiar with the American education system, which the Spanish teachers were not,” said secondary education team leader Bianca Rose.
"They are already citizens, so we're treating this just as going to another state and hiring teachers, and what we're looking for is the best of the best, and these teachers are very qualified, many of them with Master's and doctorate degrees."
Rose, along with Freeman and Alvarez said they will be traveling to Puerto Rico soon to interview candidates. They said they are looking to hire 40 bilingual teachers, as they continue to recruit in Oklahoma first.