The U.S. Department of State operates an exchange visitor program with 15 different categories of exchanges, one of those being for teachers.  The program facilitates intercultural experiences for thousands of people from around the world each year, and 1,208 exchange visas were issued for teachers in 2011.  This popular diplomacy effort, though government initiated, is structured to rely on designated sponsors to recruit exchange participants and place them in U.S. schools.  While many of the official sponsors of teacher exchanges are schools or departments of education, others are private companies.  The sponsor that has historically placed the most exchange teachers is VIF Education (VIF).  

VIF was founded in 1998 as Visiting International Faculty with the mission of expanding students’ exposure to world cultures. Though VIF was designed as a language exchange program for teachers, administrators began using the agency to fill gaps in other hard to staff subjects during a period of U.S. teacher shortages.  The misalignment of teacher expectations and program design led to a decrease in satisfaction with the program and VIF eventually made the business decision to refocus on the company’s core function.

Today, VIF exclusively recruits Spanish and Chinese language and envisions schools as global learning centers in which international teachers serve as cultural ambassadors to their host schools and communities. VIF is also actively engaged in a multi-stakeholder effort to develop a U.S. Code of Ethical International Recruitment of Teachers. More than 700 past and current VIF teachers completed the survey for the research related to “Getting Teacher Migration and Mobility Right.” More than 90% of them indicated that they believed that their contract was fair and the program met or exceeded their expectations.

More information

Fricano, Mike. “Teachers from China overcome culture shock in the classroom.” UCLA Today, August 1, 2013.