POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WTSP) -- 10News has told you about an influx of students from Puerto Rico enrolling in schools in our area. But what about teachers fleeing the hurricane-ravaged country? It turns out, the Polk County school district is welcoming them too.
Sylvia Mejias officially became a teacher with the school district Tuesday. The expectant mother left Puerto Rico with her husband and their two-year-old son earlier this month.
“I told my husband, ‘We have to move, because I’m pregnant,’” Mejias said. “If something happens to me, it’s going to work with that.”
They came to Lakeland, because she has family in the area. She applied for several jobs and decided to accept a special education teacher position at Garner Elementary School. She had a similar job on the island.
“I was so happy,” she said of the day she got the job. “I think that things are getting better.”
Hiring Mejias is a win for the school district as well. It still has 48 open teaching positions, and certifications in Puerto Rico transfer over to Florida.
“It makes that transition a lot easier for us, because they come in with a certificate from the island, and it’s reciprocal in the state of Florida,” Annissa Wilfalk, Director of Recruitment and Educator Quality for the district, said.
Wilfalk explained the district doesn’t get as many applications during the fall and winter months, so it is welcoming these qualified applicants from Puerto Rico.
The district will be holding a mini job fair from 9 a.m. to noon on December 9 in Poinciana.