Program gives immigrants path to teaching diploma, improved Hebrew.
By ABE SELIG
In an effort to tackle the shortage of English teachers, the Jewish Agency, together with the Education and Immigrant Absorption ministries, has opened a new program to encourage North American and British aliya, with the aim of training participants for jobs in the education system.
The English Teachers Project began two weeks ago with a group of 40 young people who recently arrived in the country. The first phase is an intensive ulpan.
The only prerequisite is that participants speak English as their mother tongue and have a college degree. Many of those taking part did not study education, and in October, will begin a 14-month training program, after which they will receive teaching certificates from the Education Ministry.
The program offers all of the benefits every new oleh is entitled to - including housing and a stipend to help with expenses - but also provides a structured framework that assists the immigrants as they integrate into society, work on their Hebrew skills and receive training, before guaranteeing them a job in a school.
"The idea is that without this program, Anglo olim would have to do all of these things on their own," Alex Selsky, who works with the Jewish Agency's spokesman's office, said on Monday. "Participants don't have to look for housing, they don't have to find a school for the teacher's certification and they don't have to look for a job. We do all of that for them."
Participants told The Jerusalem Post that the program had already answered a number of the needs that had come up as they were considering the move to Israel.
"I had always wanted to make aliya. I'm interested in teaching and it was really hard to find a job in New York City," said 23-year-old Deena Neustadter. "This covered all three of those things, and when I saw the advertisement it seemed like such a great opportunity."
Neustadter also said that while she knew some Hebrew before arriving here last month, she still had a "ways to go," but was looking forward to the experience.
"It's been great so far. I'm living in an absorption center with my fellow immigrants, and I feel like I have a community. We're learning together."
She has a degree in Judaic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After graduation, she had returned to New York and worked as a teacher's assistant.
"That was what sort of gave me the spark for teaching," she said.
Other participants have law degrees, had even worked in the profession for a number of years, but had always wanted to come to Israel, and were finally won over by the program's provisions.
"It's like a security blanket," said David Mizrachi, from Columbus, Ohio, who has a degree in law from Ohio State University. "You don't feel lost."
"I had been thinking about making aliya for eight years, and it seemed really daunting to have to go through the process on your own."
Mizrachi, whose father is Israeli, grew up speaking Hebrew in his home, and said he hopes to end up teaching somewhere in the Negev.
"I really love the desert," he said. "But another part of it is financial. Like other Israeli teachers, we get a salary bonus if we agree to teach in the periphery."
Anthony Selby, another lawyer who arrived from London at the beginning of the month, also said the program's safety net helped him make up his mind.
"I had been thinking about making aliya but didn't want to do it without a structure, without knowing that I'd be able to find a job," he said.
"I finished university six years ago, and worked in law for about a year, but decided it wasn't for me. After traveling around for a bit, and coming to Israel a number of times, I knew I wanted to come back, I just didn't know how I would do it," Selby said.
After perusing the Jewish Agency's Web site one day and seeing an advertisement for the English Teachers Project, he decided to make the jump.
Now in ulpan, Selby said he was a bit worried about his Hebrew level, but was ready for the challenge.
"It's an opportunity to learn something new," he said.
As far as salaries go, Selby said that coming into the program, he knew what to expect.
"They showed us on the Web site what the teachers' salaries are in Israel," he said. "No one pulled the wool over our eyes."
"Besides," he continued. "I don't think that anyone who came on the program is doing it for the money. These are people who wanted to come to Israel, they wanted to do something productive, and now they've found a way to do it."â€¢
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