The Las Vegas school district is preparing dozens of teachers from the Philippines to head special education classrooms for the next three years.

District officials told KSNV a national teacher shortage, and pressing need for more special education teachers, forced them to get creative, and they opted to recruit Filipino teachers through the J-1 Visa Program.

In April, Clark County School District administrators flew to the Philippines to interview 250 candidates, ultimately offering jobs to several dozen, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Review-Journal reported the district hired 81 Filipino educators, while KTNV reports the total at 105. They went through orientation in mid-July, and were welcomed to the community at a special event organized by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations later in the month.

Most have master’s degrees and experience in special education and will earn a starting salary of about $40,000 a year. They’ve committed to three-year contracts, and they all live in the same apartment complex in town.

“They have a mass number of teachers in the Philippines,” Michael Gentry, the district chief recruitment officer said. “We are stealing teachers.”

According to the Review-Journal:

English is one of the national languages in the Philippines, so the teachers already speak English. The J-1 visas allow foreigners to come to the U.S. to teach, study or receive on the job training.

Officials can’t say why, but more teachers in the Philippines choose to specialize in special education than in the United States. Teachers in that country make between $5,000 and $7,000, while Clark County’s starting salary is $40,000.

And while many will make substantially more than they would have at home, many spend less of their income here than they send back to the Philippines to support family, Gentry said.

“They’re very frugal,” he said.

It’s not the first year CCSD has recruited teachers from overseas to educate its most vulnerable students. District officials hired 49 Filipino teachers in 2005 after a similar recruiting trip.

Other schools in Washington state and elsewhere have also recruited from the Philippines, while other districts have turned to Puerto Rico for bilingual teachers in recent years, EAGnews previously reported.

Several Filipino educators who made the 20-hour plane ride to their new jobs discussed how the experience has been intimidating and exciting.

“At some point in your life, you have to step up. You have to jump,” Adrian Calabano, a 22-year-old recruit from Manila told the Review-Journal.

“Being a special education teacher the challenge is given,” fellow recruit Jayfrey Guerra told KTNV. “And the hardest part for me is that I’m taking away from my family.”

“My goal here is to be able to cater to the students of special needs,” Calabano, who will teach sixth grade, told KSNV. “In my case, students with autism. And I want to be able to greet them warmly. And I will represent the Philippines, so I will be able to share culture with them.”