Leander ISD welcomes teachers from Australia, Jamaica as school year starts again

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LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Leander Independent School District begins school Thursday, and with that means many changes for students.

Some of the changes include new classrooms, new classmates and new teachers. At River Place Elementary and Knowles Elementary, some of those teachers have traveled a very long distance.

“On this side, this is my reading block,” said Sherika Neil, who just moved to Austin to teach from Jamaica. “The room is larger so it takes some time to get everything set up.”

Neil has been a teacher for nine years, but when she heard about the Spirit Exchange program for teachers, she signed up for a three-year contract to teach in the US.

Principal Tina Pasak said after interviewing Neil, she knew she would be a perfect fit.

“Having someone from another country, from any country is a great experience,” Pasak said.

Ellen Blinco traveled from Australia to teach. This is her first time in the United States. She will be teaching at Knowles Elementary.

“My number one priority is that the kids get the best possible education,” Blinco said.

Jennifer Dunn, a Leander ISD campus recruiter, said that teaching turnover has been rough on the district, so they wanted to try something different.

“This year we have been really thinking outside of the box because we have had a lot of turnover with teachers over the past two years with what has gone on,” Dunn said.

Despite some of the challenges from COVID-19 both teachers are settling in and gearing up for the year ahead.

“I want them to know I have their children’s best interest at heart,” Neil said.

The district says they hope to use the program more in the future.

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