Visiting International Faculty Program
I teach at a low income, low achieving K-5 school in North Carolina. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to immigrant children (Title I and Title VII). When I interviewed for this position, I was shocked to be invited to visit the classroom and meet some of the children. Being allowed to view the actual classroom setting just never occurs in North Carolina during a teaching interview, so I was very impressed. ESL is now lower on the rung of the educational ladder than EC (Exceptional Children) in North Carolina. Not only was I highly impressed that I was being shown the actual classroom, but I couldn't believe the amount of ESL texts, Second Language Learning Software, relias, manipulatives, computers, in the classroom. I couldn't believe my eyes compared to what I had witnessed when I taught in another North Carolina school system last year. Further, "Joan", who is Canadian, and the other ESL teacher who interviewed me, along with the Principal, seemed surprised at my awe regarding the amount of ESL instructional materials, software, computers in the ESL classroom, which we initially shared with Autistic Children.
I was hired for the position and dug in my heels. I had previously assumed that "Joan" was hired by the county, just as I was. I found out later, "Joan" was a "VIF" (Visiting International Faculty) teacher. I didn't know what "VIF" was, but she explained that VIF had begun at Elon College in North Carolina, but had done so well that now they were located in Chapel Hill. She quoted some staggering figures about how much they had profited, and that VIF is now a multi-million dollar organization. To add to my shock, I was told that as a new ESL teacher in the county, I would be allowed $600.00 to buy classroom materials! $600.00!!! I was only allowed $200.00 at my previous school. What could any teacher buy for a case load of about 37 students with $200.00? That aside, I was gleeful at the amount of $600.00, and found wonderful educational software on sell for half price, which our Departmental Chairman approved and we received.
Last fall "Joan" told me that she would be away for a few days to go to a "VIF Conference" in Asheville. "How lovely," I thought.
When I attended my first ESL Departmental Meeting held in Greensboro, I noted that the room was full of many foreign teachers. "Joan" told me that our county hires a lot of VIF teachers. I wondered why, since UNC-Greensboro offers the 18 hour course work to get an ESL add-on to a North Carolina License, and there are approximately 6-8 other colleges and universities offering the ESL add-on in North Carolina. Thus far, UNC-Charlotte is the only Master's Degree Program in ESL, and I am an alumna of UNC-Charlotte.
Somewhere in the course of events since I moved here to teach, something started to bother me about this whole VIF thing. Some feeling that made me uneasy and suspicious. Even though I couldn't pin-point it, I did know to pay attention to the feeling.
I have an ESL Colleague who returned to Korea to teach, and we continue to email each other and stay in touch. She expressed her interest in returning to North Carolina to teach because she misses us. "Aha!" I thought. I'll ask "Joan" about VIF and the possibility of hiring her and sponsoring her to come to North Carolina. North Carolina now has the second largest school age population (projected until 2003), out-ranked only by California in size of school age population, and there are many teacher shortages here in spite of the fact that colleges and universities are cranking out Education Majors.
So I did a search on "VIF" and what I came up with floored me! I have just spent the last hour trying to key in every search string I could think of in an attempt to recover what I uncovered then. It was the Agenda of the VIF Conference/Meeting held at the Radisson in Asheville, fall of 1999. All of the top personae from North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, including the State Superintendent, were listed as attendees, as well as School Administrators, and a Professor from the College of Education at UNC-Charlotte whom I remember.
Why, then, did I have a notion that "Joan" had told me she was attending a VIF Conference in Asheville for "Professional Development"? Over the course of several months of sharing a classroom together, "Joan" has told me that VIF gives her—the school, actually—over $4,000.00 a year for "Professional Development." Then I finally realized why our school has supplies and materials that are unknown to my ESL colleagues in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, for example. Obviously, the game plan is: "Hire our VIF teachers, and we will give your school money."
For a few weeks I had lamented to "Joan" that I really did want to attend the TESOL Conference in Vancouver in March, but on my salary, I couldn't stand the financial strain. A few weeks later she announced that she had figured out a plan so that we could both attend the TESOL Conference, and she had figured out the budget. She said we should go to talk to the Principal and ask if she would approve our attending the Conference. The Principal approved it! Of course, again, it is VIF funds, and I am not a VIF employee, so I guess one might conclude I have crawled in bed with VIF along with other counties in North Carolina. Not true!
Now, to add to the story, just this past week, VIF had "Joan" fly out to California for some more "Professional Development." Not only by what "Joan" has told me since she returned from that trip, but also from other information I have found on the Internet, I now realize the "Professional Development" trips to be VIF sales pitches to School Systems and School Administrators.
Since "Joan's" Contract and VISA expire this year, she will have to leave our school. Since she's returned from California, she's told me that VIF wants her to go to work for them full time, as a Recruiter. Her finance has been transferred to Augusta, but VIF has told her she can work out of Atlanta. We all know that Atlanta is Headquarters for several entities, but perhaps there is no relationship. Just a thought.
Quoted from VIF web site: "VIF currently operates in NC, SC, VA, CO, NJ, and GA. Other states may be added in the near future." "Joan" was out in California pitching them just last week.
I grant permission to quote me from this email, but ask that you PLEASE edit my identify, "Joan's" identity, and other "markers" that you feel are important. I don't want to wind up another Karen Silkwood.
I suggest reading through the entire Visiting International Faculty Program website.