Refugee women in Georgia training to become teachers

The International Community School in Decatur is helping train refugee women to be teachers. It is a way to help them find a new life in Georgia and combat the teacher shortage.

"It was so hard. It took me so much time to adjust and it was so hard for me," Shakila Amiaq explained.

Amiaq and her family fled from Afghanistan when the government collapsed in 2021. There, she worked as a doctor. She spoke at a program last year about adjusting to her new life in Georgia.

"I worked as a teacher back home before getting my medical degree. Now, I'm working at the International Community School as a TA," Amiaq explained.

She is one of three women in a cohort at the school working to get their teaching certifications while assisting in the kindergarten classrooms. The program is free for the women involved and is being done in partnership with the Refugee Women's Network

"We have refugee and immigrant children here in our school. We're about 50/50 where we're educating those students alongside community children. We all know representation matters so having these women as part of our staff has just been really beneficial to overall community engagement," Fran Carroll, Interim Executive Director at the International Community School, explained. 

It's also a way to combat teacher shortages. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, about 45% of schools started this school year without a full staff.

"Through this process we have an internal program where we are preparing teachers for when opportunities open up in the future and that's the goal of this program is to get ahead of that shortage," Carroll explained.

The current cohort has about one to two years left in the program and the goal is to have another begin soon after.

"We also are pretty confident that this program can be replicated so other school districts other charter school can take this same model and take another group of women and help them become certified teachers," Carroll said. 

And for Amiaq, the sense of community at the school means just as much as the training she is receiving. 

"You not feel you are immigrant and you do not feel like you're a refugee here. Yeah, just like a family, yes," Amiaq said.