Oakland teacher must leave her kids — and her life in the United States — behind

Bambi In February 2003 Bambi Rodriguez, a Filipina citizen with a master’s degree in special education, filled a special education position at Tilden School — one that that had been vacant for months.

Two weeks ago, she learned her application for permanent employment was denied based on the Department of Labor’s finding that there were enough U.S. workers qualified for her job.

Her work visa expires next week, and so she left as she came in: in the middle of the school year. We met Rodriguez Wednesday, on her last day at the Burbank Preschool Center, a program that migrated from Tilden after that school closed.

Here is the story about her case, and how it has affected Burbank families and teachers.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Sucks she’s leaving in the middle of the year. But, if this was the immigration law when she came, I have no idea why anyone would be surprised. This should be the planned outcome of any visa based on a lack of US workers. Does anyone believe we continue to be unable to find unemployed US workers for virtually any job?

    Why is common sense so uncommon?

  • Oakland Teacher

    One real reason that the Dept of Labor no longer considers special education teachers as a job with enough workers available who are citizens is that the positions are filled with 22 year old recent college grads who signed up for programs like Teach For America and become and instant teacher. There used to be a special education teacher shortage until the powers that be decided that anyone could be a special ed teacher. The real criminal piece is that the most fragile population gets the least experienced teachers. Bambi was very well respected and it is a real shame she has to leave her kids. I really hope that a “real teacher” takes her place; in most circumstances it ends up being someone who has no idea of what they are doing, and they learn on the kids’ time.

  • Nextset

    We have far too many foreign nationals living in this country and that needs to be fixed. For one thing, the “illegals” (invaders) need to be rounded up.

    You can’t have a country with nonexistant borders. Our enforcement of driving, working and services bans are a function of protecting our borders.

  • David Laub

    Nextset-you must have a secret desire to be a cowboy. You have the ultimate knack to shovel B*LL S**T blog after blog. What an ignorant kneejerk reaction, as is soooo typicalof your arm chair drivel.

  • Alice Spearman

    Hey Mr. Laub,
    Still see you are true to your self. Happy Holidays
    (Mr. Laub was a teacher of my daughters at the Castle a few years back. Might I add A Good One Too!)

  • Turanga_teach

    What Oakland Teacher said. Bambi, from day one and for eight years running, worked tirelessly to deliver consistent best-practices early intervention services to some of Oakland’s most vulnerable students. When we compare what happened in Bambi’s program under her watch with what inevitably happens when, with all the best intentions in the world, classes like hers are staffed with rotating casts of learn-on-the-job recent college grads, we are talking a qualitative difference that changes kids’ lives. I’ve worked firsthand with kids who came into Bambi’s autism classroom with minimal verbal skills and no understanding of the social world: because of her, many of these students are currently thriving in much less restrictive environments.

    Bambi came here legally, outlasted many colleagues in a job that has one of the highest attrition rates of anything in education, and is leaving with a dignity far beyond that of anyone who would judge her. Oakland is much the poorer for her loss.

  • Nextset

    David Laub: It must hurt to go about the world expecting other people to cater to your wishes.

    And it must hurt to involve yourself in a public exchange of idea and opinion and see anyone else with an opposite view.

    You probably went to schools where you didn’t have to hear a contrary view.

    Poor man. Not well educated.

    The teacher we speak of may be a nice person, may be an “asset” to the school district. That’s not the point at all. Borders are to be respected or they don’t serve as borders anymore.

    Of course she has political remedies. Any member of congress can put up a private bill to grant her citizenship.

    I have known many legal refugees and immigrants. My parents even sponsored Iron Curtain immigrants during the cold war who escaped from the Soviet occupation. All the immigrants I speak of jumped through a lot of hoops to come here and stay here openly and legally.

    We are not the dumping place of the 3rd world. And it’s nothing personal.

    If you can’t handle these words in a public blog you have a big problem. Get treatment for it. It’s going to get worse as the USA fragments into people who really don’t have a lot of common ground, maybe people who went to “different” schools. Get my drift?

  • Nextset

    A second thought. You know, that private bill thing is not a fantastic long shot. People are taken care of by private bills.

    If the readers really do support this woman and believe she is important enough to the school system, we really should be emailing Boxer/Fienstein and the local reps. You can get private bills done on occasion. If it is this important, that’s what politics is good for.

  • Rick

    Did this teacher apply for citizenship? She had 8 years. My friends next door are from Mexico. They came here worked to become citizens.

    But, we are always talking about feeling sorry for the illegals. I’m gettin up in age, but what do you mean Mr. Laub about this “cowboY and B*ll S**T” stuff?

    Is this the kind of talk you use in school? I’m got you in my prayers son cause ther ain’t no reason to talk like this. How can we expect our childern to act like human beings in school if our teacher can’t do it themselves?

    This Nextset fellow should be able to state his views without all the name calling.

  • Oakland Teacher

    I really hope that none of the people who are ranting about “illegals” and “third world countries” never have to know what it is like to have a child with special needs taught by a 22 year year old with no experience, instead of a well-educated professional like Bambi. Then perhaps you will understand the frustration of those of us who mourn her leaving.

    BTW – not that it is the subject, but this is somehow who is highly skilled, educated and paying her own way. Her job offers full benefits, including health care, so no one can even say anything about “your tax dollars.” She is a contributing member of society, and not easily replaced.

  • Oakland Teacher

    oops, typo – “someone” not “somehow”. I think my brain is on vacation along with my body!

  • J.R.

    “to know what it is like to have a child with special needs taught by a 22 year year old with no experience”

    I have posted evidence time and again that experience after a certain point is way overblown, The personality type is much more important . I know a 3rd year teacher who was RIF’d, and she was one of the most loving and beloved,hard working all around best teachers it has ever been my privilege to know(there were many young teachers just like her, and they are now gone).These are the teachers that California will need into the future, but tenure and bumping have really dug us into a hole we may not ever get out of.



  • TheTruthHurts

    @Rick in post #9.

    Surely, you been on this blog long enough to know that people would rather attack the poster than the argument they present. Nextset clearly has views not common in Oakland or California for that matter. Instead of engage his arguments, it’s easier to attack the person, particularly when so many would agree. I often don’t agree with his posts, but try to attack the argument. If we limit ourselves to attacking the person, we undermine our own credibility as open-minded thinkers IMHO.

    The other thing you see here is an inability to separate a law about process from the result. Bambi might be teacher of the year, but the question is whether the law should be enforced. If not, let’s change the law or get the Congressional exception. Otherwise, it’s just whining about the result. Whining has it’s place, but hopefully it’s short-lived. With so many out of work, I would hope people would see beyond personal upset and respect the policy objective of the law.

    Frankly, it’s the nonsense that treats every teacher with the same credential as an equal that’s part of the problem. Bambi should be able to argue that she is better than any American teacher available, but alas our systems aren’t set up for her to provide any real evidence of that.

    Someone ought to work on that too. Whining should be for the pre-teens I see all over. Adults should be about solutions.

  • J.R.

    That is part of what is wrong with this education system that we have. The automatic assumption that all teachers are equally capable(some are life-changers, and others just collect a check), and what may be even worse assuming that experienced teachers are automatically better. The fact is “you” are proven better when you prove yourself to be better, and time served doesn’t mean much after a certain point. You do not get more compassionate,caring,dedicated as time goes on, you either are that way to begin with or you are not.

  • J.R.

    We need teachers like you in this country, unfortunately we are dumping them like so much trash these days. This country will pay the steepest price down the road. Your country is very fortunate to have you back. Good luck

  • Sue

    J.R. Says:
    December 20th, 2010 at 11:36 am
    “to know what it is like to have a child with special needs taught by a 22 year year old with no experience”

    I have posted evidence time and again that experience after a certain point is way overblown, The personality type is much more important .
    The phrase you quoted included “with no experience” – and the rest of your post seems to imply that someone with *no* experience is just as good as, or better than, someone with *some* experience, depending on personality type. I don’t believe that was your intention or your view, though.

    Now that my older son has gone pre-k and K-12 in Spec. Ed. and main stream full-inclusion classes (with necessary supports for his autism), graduating last June and starting at CSUEB in September, I can provide piles of anecdotes about the differences between the fresh-out-of-college teachers and the more experienced ones who have taught him in OUSD for the last 14 years. Personalities are a factor of course, but I’ve never met a teacher who was in a Spec. Ed. position for any reason other than wanting to work with and help kids with a real need. One just doesn’t chose this career if one doesn’t have that kind of personality.

    The differences between *some* experience and *no* experience is huge. Sometimes it’s frightening to realize one’s child has made no progress at all in a whole school year, because the brand-new teacher with no experience, but a wonderful, warm, loving personality, couldn’t handle the job. (1st grade Communication Handicap special day class – and she left Oakland at the end of the year to take a position in Alameda, where I hope she had the supports she needed from more experienced teachers, and learned to be the teacher I knew she wanted to be for her students.) Then we watched a brand-new teacher come in and face the same no-experience hurdles, but four years later, she’s still running the ASIP program, and she’s a vastly improved teacher four years later when we celebrated our success attending my son’s (and several of her other students’) graduation from Skyline.

    Fine, the evidence says the differences between 30 years experience and 10 years aren’t significant. But the difference between the 30-year teacher or the 10-year teacher, and the zero-years in the classroom teacher, that’s got to be very significant.

    (And I’ve never met Bambi – I suspect she’s been working with students on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum, while my son is considered high-functioning and has been grouped with mostly Asperger’s peers.)

  • J.R.

    I have never or would never say that a teacher straight out of college is good or great(the potential is there, but they need to prove themselves). My point was(and the data shows)once a teacher learns the ins and outs,nuts and bolts of doing the job, there isn’t a whole lot to add to the repertoire.Teachers are(and should be)a special breed, and not just anyone should be allowed to be one. The best teachers that I have seen have one thing in common, they are nurturing individuals. We need to be fair to kids first and foremost, and shed the incompetent teachers out there.

  • Betty

    @Oakland Teacher Says:
    December 20th, 2010 at 11:18 am
    Her job offers full benefits, including health care, so no one can even say anything about “your tax dollars.” She is a contributing member of society, and not easily replaced.


    Our “tax dollars” pay for this salary and benefits, Oakland Teacher and so, yes, I *can* and will feel free to say whatever I’d like about the subject of “Bambi” and her continued employment in Oakland. As lovely a person as she might be, I would rather have my tax dollars go toward the employment of an American citizen. I would even go so far as to say that, in this economy, I would support tightening the H1B requirements, not relaxing them.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Hate is always ugly.

    I would wish that there were enough fully qualified teachers to teach the special ed students in Oakland. Where they come from or what color they are is of no consequence to me. The only thing that matters to me is whether the kids are getting what they need.If it makes you feel any better, most of the Teach for America interns are white and American. And your tax dollars go to those programs, with a never ending supply of new enthusiastic college grads, who teach until they figure out what they really want to do in life.

    I would think #18 would not be saying that if her autistic child was about to have a 22 year old teaching intern with no classroom experience as a teacher for the rest of the year. I would guess that she would be upset. Reality is that there is a shortage of fully credentialed special education teachers. I believe about half of the special ed teachers in Oakland are interns.

    The shortage is worse in OUSD than other districts, because they don’t pay enough. Other districts all have higher pay for teachers and have an additional stipend for special ed teachers, just so they are able to attract and retain them. See, they actually are not keen on hiring people with no experience to teach special ed students. In OUSD, not only is it okay, but it is their policy to hire all the interns available before even considering fully credentialed or experienced teachers to fill positions. Please keep in mind that the interns they hire have not even begun teacher training programs; they take the classes concurrently.

  • http://aol.com Rhoda

    There are many USA citizen students who have graduated from college and want to become special ed. teachers. Other USA citizen college grads have even moved out of state and out of the country to get teaching jobs. Jobs are about supply and demand. Many USA citizens must move to find jobs. Many very qualified USA citizen teachers have already lost jobs. Sounds like Bambi has made many friends and will get good references to find a job in her homeland or, just as USA citizens have had to do, in a foreign land.

  • Betty

    “Hate”, Oakland Teacher? Nobody here is hating (with the possible exception of YOU.) I certainly am not hating anyone (fyi: disagreeing with you does not constitute “hate.”) American citizens need jobs. Some of those citizens are teachers. Some of those teachers are special education teachers. They have, presumably, been trained as part of their own educational process to deal with children with “special” educational needs. They will gain experience with employment, which they are entitled to compete with other American citizens for before foreign labor is considered under the H1B Visa program. The fact that her visa was not renewed indicates that there ARE American citizens who are qualified (and available) for this position. It really is just that simple.

  • Oakland Teacher

    I wish it were true that there were enough qualified teachers for special ed jobs. All of the comments about qualified US citizens “needing jobs” that are being filled by non-citizens is just not true. Over 50% of Oakland special education positions are filled by interns, who have NO experience as any kind of teacher, much less as a special education teacher (which requires additional training beyond teacher training courses). That is reality, that there are not enough fully trained credentialed special education teachers. The people who are filling those slots are fresh out of college and very few of them stay beyond their 2 year commitment. The powers that be have decided that anyone who enters an intern program is an instant teacher, but the reality is different. Regardless of your politics, the kids are suffering. I guess it depends on your definition of qualified: if passing a general knowledge test and being a US citizen is all you need to make a qualified teacher, then there is no shortage.