Teacher FAQs

Frequently asked questions about teaching abroad

Leaving your home to teach abroad is a life-changing experience, and we know you probably have lots of questions! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Participate Learning ambassador program for international teachers. Explore the topics below:

Teaching requirements | Bringing your family to the US | Teaching positions | Salary, finance and benefits | Co-teacher program | Visa sponsorship and length of stay

Teaching requirements

Do I qualify to teach if I teach at a university or a language institute?

We recruit teachers to teach in schools from kindergarten through grade 12. Our schools in the Participate Learning Partnership are looking for educators with experience teaching in these settings. At the time of your application, you should be employed by a regular private or regular public school.

Do I qualify if I never graduated from university? / Can I teach without qualifications?

You need a university teaching degree to qualify for a teaching license in the US.

Unfortunately, you cannot teach with the Participate Learning program in a US school without the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree. Find out what degrees are accepted from your country.

Do I have to have perfect English?

Your English does not need to be perfect. However, you must be able to communicate effectively (both written and orally) as you’ll need to engage with your students, principal, school staff, teaching colleagues and your students’ parents.

We will evaluate your English proficiency throughout your application process and let you know if your proficiency is sufficient.

Do I need a driver’s license? / Do I need to have a car?

We require that you have a valid driver’s license and at least a year of driving experience at the time of travel.

There is not easy access to public transportation where teachers are placed, meaning you will need to buy a car upon arrival in the US and be able to drive. Typically, ambassador teachers pay a down payment for a car and continue to pay for the car while living in the US.

For your safety and the safety of others, you should not only have a driver’s license, but also know how to drive well. If you do not have a driver’s license or know how to drive well, we recommend that you wait until you meet this requirement before applying.

I’m already in the US, but I’m not a US citizen or permanent resident. Can I apply?

You may be eligible to participate depending on your individual situation. We will review your application to fully evaluate your candidacy.

I do not yet meet the minimum application requirements, but will be qualified soon. What do I do?

That’s ok! Stay connected with us via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Youtube. We encourage you to register once you have met the requirements for participation.

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Bringing your family to the US

Can my family come with me to the US if I’m accepted into the program?

Yes! Your spouse and children under 21 are eligible to apply to come with you to the US They will apply to come with a J-2 visa, as dependents to your J-1 visa. Your spouse can apply for work authorization once they arrive in the US.

Processing times for work authorization is about three months.

The video below provides some insights about bringing your family to the US.

Bringing your family to the US

I have a domestic/civil partner. Can they come on the J visa too?

We can only sponsor visas for your legal spouse. In order for your spouse to come with you to the US, you must be legally married.

I am in a same-sex relationship. Can my partner come on the J visa too?

Same-sex marriage is legal in the US, so we can sponsor visas for legally married same-sex couples. You need to have gotten married in a country where same-sex marriage is legal. Civil unions, unfortunately, do not apply here.

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Teaching positions

When does the US school year start and end?

Generally, the US school year begins in August or early September. It continues until late May or early June. This is known as a traditional calendar and is followed by a majority of schools. Exact start dates vary by school or school district.

Some of the schools we work with offer a year-round calendar. Classes in these schools typically start in July. Students and teachers get 2 weeks off after every 9 weeks of class throughout the year. During the summer, you get about 4-5 weeks off between school years.

As with any other teacher in the US, you are expected to work every day in the school calendar. This includes both required and optional teacher workdays, unless you have prior approval from your principal. You should thoroughly review your school’s handbook and calendar to learn the requirements.

What teaching positions will I be considered for?

The Participate Learning staff will determine what positions you will be considered for. We make this decision based on your training, experience, interviews and preferences.

Once we have made a decision, we will help you prepare for this position. Some candidates are eligible for more than one type of placement and more than one level. We strive to find you a position in which you have the best chance of succeeding and will benefit most.

Learn more about positions available.

Will I receive preparation before I begin teaching?

Participate Learning provides training sessions for all teachers joining our cultural exchange program. Online support is available to eligible teachers who are awaiting positions with Participate Learning. Our online support offers information on teaching in the US.

You will also learn about the visa process, budgeting, transportation and preparing to relocate to the US.

Upon arrival, ambassador teachers will take part in an orientation hosted by Participate Learning. This includes more preparation for working in a US classroom and settling into a new community. Most US school districts also host their own orientations for new teachers prior to the start of the school year.

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Salary, finance and benefits

Do I get paid the same amount as a US teacher? / How much will I earn?

You will be paid the same as a US teacher. All salaries are determined based on the year you graduated from university. It also depends on how many years of full-time teaching experience you have after graduation. Salary is non-negotiable. In the US, salary figures are quoted yearly and before taxes.

North Carolina (NC) uses one salary scale for all teachers, regardless of the school district they teach in. All teachers in NC are paid based on a Bachelor’s degree. Advanced degrees are not taken into consideration. Cost of living in NC is generally lower than in South Carolina and Virginia.

In South Carolina and Virginia, salary scales are decided by school districts. Advanced degree salaries are paid in these states. Cost of living is also typically higher in these locations.

What health benefits do I get?

As your visa sponsors, we make sure you are covered by health insurance. This is why all our ambassadors and their families must use the health insurance provided.

You cannot choose to use any other insurance provider. Participate Learning subsidizes the cost for you every month, as we pay for part of your premium, and you pay the rest. Health insurance is paid for on a monthly basis, and our health insurance provider is Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

We also offer you the option of purchasing dental insurance, which you will pay for separately. You will also receive free life insurance.

Learn more about support and benefits.

Will I need to open a bank account?

Participate Learning will open an account for you before you arrive. Most school districts will deposit your salary directly into your bank account.

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Co-teacher program

How does a Participate Learning co-teacher differ from other dual language teachers?

Co-teachers spend their first year in a dual language classroom shared with a returning dual language ambassador. Co-teachers have the same responsibilities as other educators. They are encouraged to learn from their partner ambassador. They gain valuable experience teaching in a dual language classroom.

The Participate Learning co-teacher program lasts for one year. Co-teachers should lead their own classroom starting their second year with Participate Learning.

What are the requirements for the co-teacher program?

To be a co-teacher, you must be a native speaker of the target language, Spanish or Mandarin. You must have at least intermediate levels of written and verbal proficiency in English, and you must have completed a degree equivalent to a US Bachelor’s degree. This includes teacher preparation programs.

Like all ambassador teachers, co-teachers must have valid driver’s licenses before arrival in the US. They cannot be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

What are the benefits of the co-teacher program?

Co-teachers have the opportunity to learn more about teaching in a US dual language classroom. They share teaching responsibilities with another, experienced dual language ambassador. Co-teachers receive full-time teacher salaries. They also have health insurance benefits, visa sponsorship and ongoing program support.

What kind of support will I receive throughout the school year in the co-teacher program?

Participate Learning is committed to providing supportive, comprehensive experiences for all co-teachers. This includes participating in Participate Learning’s online professional development (PD). Instructional support is also provided to all dual language program teachers.

Participants completing online PD modules will earn digital badges. These can be shared on resumes and via social media, and are stored for endorsement and certification. Additionally, Participate Learning staff are available by phone and email for questions. They also make school visits throughout the year.

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Visa sponsorship and length of stay

How will I be sponsored to teach in the US?

Participate Learning is designated by the US Department of State as an Exchange Program Sponsor. As such, Participate Learning is authorized to sponsor cultural exchange teachers in the US.

Approved teachers are eligible to apply for J-1 cultural exchange visas at their home country Embassy or Consulate. These visas are available only to non-US citizens and those who are not permanent residents of the US.

Learn more about the J visa here.

How long can I stay in the US?

The initial J-1 Exchange Visitor visa used by our ambassadors is valid for up to three years. During the third year, ambassadors who remain in good standing may be eligible to apply for a two-year extension, for a total of five years. At the end of the program, ambassadors are expected to return to their home countries to fulfill the cultural exchange.

Teachers and schools renew contracts with mutual consent at the end of each year of employment for a maximum of five years. Schools have the expectation that teachers will remain for the maximum length of time allowed under the J-1 visa.

How long must I be available to live in the US to participate?

Applicants should plan to live in the US for at least two school years. Prospective applicants who can’t make this commitment should not apply to teach with Participate Learning.

Why does Participate Learning require a minimum commitment of two school years for participation?

Ambassadors work in full-time teaching positions where they serve as teachers of record at US public or private schools. This is unlike other programs where teachers “swap” positions with US counterparts. Ambassadors with Participate Learning take on the responsibilities for students like any newly hired teachers.

Settling into life in the US and new school positions requires significant commitment. The length of adjustment periods vary depending on the similarities and differences teachers encounter. It requires time to learn, adapt and, most importantly, build trust with new students and colleagues.

Both teachers and school districts report greatest satisfaction during and after a teacher’s second year.

Schools in the Participate Learning Partnership are aware of the adjustment period for teachers in their first year. They recognize that frequent turnover in teaching staff can hamper student progress. Therefore, they are unwilling to host teachers for only one year. They expect teachers to remain in their positions, if possible, for the full extent of the J-1 visa program. That is why Participate Learning has set two school years as a minimum commitment for program participation.

Will I be guaranteed employment for at least two years?

We cannot guarantee employment for a specific period. We will work hard to provide you support and the opportunity to adjust quickly to your new community and succeed in the classroom.

Your continued employment as an exchange teacher is largely your responsibility. It depends on your ability to teach successfully under the requirements of your teaching position. Participate Learning personnel may also assess your performance.

The terms of program participation, including departures before full completion of program participation due to resignations, terminations, contract non-renewals or other extenuating circumstances, are addressed in more detail in the Participate Learning Educator Agreement. This is provided to all participants before beginning the program.

How long does it take to adjust to life as a teacher in the US?

Most of our ambassadors refer to their first year as “challenging,” due to the number of changes they face. This includes a new country and culture, a new school system, new colleagues, a new home, new food, new friends and more.

Cultural adaptation requires a significant adjustment period as one moves through the various phases. Typically, it takes at least six months to arrive at the final phase where one begins to adapt to the new culture and fit in.

The first year is primarily one of learning, adjustment and personal challenge. The second year begins to offer true program benefits as teachers settle in and begin to make significant contributions. This is also the year in which personal growth truly starts to occur. Ambassadors begin to feel they have accomplished something of significance. They gain more confidence and new perspectives on the nature of teaching itself.

Participate Learning staff provide support throughout the experience. Ambassadors also have access to professional events with other ambassadors and staff.

Learn more about culture shock.

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Learn more about Participate Learning’s application and get started today.