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Teachers from Spain help fill vacancies in Elgin ISD

Incoming Spanish teachers Ruben Jimenez and María Gallego Gil point to a map of Spain at Neidig Elementary School, part of Elgin Independent School District, in Elgin.
Becky Fogel
Ruben Jimenez and María Gallego Gil are incoming teachers from Spain teaching in the Elgin Independent School District this year.

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The Elgin Independent School District is participating in a visiting international teacher program for the first time to help fill vacancies amid a nationwide teacher shortage. Five educators from Spain began teaching at Elgin ISD elementary schools in August.

Elgin ISD is one of 13 school districts statewide participating in the program, which is a partnership between the Spanish Ministry of Education and Education Service Center Region 13.

Al Rodriguez, Elgin ISD’s assistant superintendent of human capital, said the district got involved with the program for a couple of reasons.

“One: Obviously, we have vacancies. There’s a teacher shortage across the state and across the country,” he said. “Two: We have a high population of bilingual, English language learners and we have a need for teachers who can speak Spanish and teach in Spanish.”

He added the program is also a way to provide enriching educational experiences for students.

“This sort of experience helps them to have a broader worldview,” he said.

Rodriguez said, so far, there has been a positive reception to the program and he’s excited about the doors it could open.

“Elgin is a growing community," he said. "We’re going to probably double in size in the next five, six years — maybe seven — and we’re excited to bring in new people who are going to affect our kids in a positive way.”

The teachers from Spain must have two years of experience to qualify for the program and nearly all have committed to working in Elgin ISD for the next three years. They’re supporting dual language and English as a second language education programs in kindergarten through second grade.

One of the teachers is María Gallego Gil from Madrid. Gallego Gil previously taught in Spain for six years. She was interested in the program because she loves teaching and learning new ways to teach.

“I think I can learn a lot, and I think I can also give my best here,” she said. “So it’s a new experience. It’s an adventure and I love to travel.”

Gallego Gil is teaching reading and writing in Spanish to first graders in a dual language program. She said there are a lot of differences between teaching in Texas and Spain, but there’s one key similarity.

“Everything is different here,” she said. “Well, not the kids. They’re 6-year-olds, and they like to play and things like that.”

Ruben Jimenez is also from Madrid, but this is not his first time teaching in Texas. Jimenez previously taught in Manor ISD from 2016 to 2018. This time around, he’s teaching second graders in the dual language program at Elgin ISD’s Neidig Elementary School. He said the first few weeks of school have been intense, but he enjoys getting to know his students.

“They’re already learning a lot, and I’m learning a lot from them,” he said.

Jimenez, who taught in Spain for 14 years, said he gets to spend significantly more time working with his students in the U.S.

“I have a lot of time to help them, to share with them [and] to see what their needs are,” he said.

Jimenez recommends other teachers from Spain consider participating in the program.

“This is an amazing experience,” he said. “They have to take advantage of this opportunity.”

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Becky Fogel is the education reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @beckyfogel.
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