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Economy sending Ariz. teachers toward jobs abroad

Katie and Chris McCrea are looking for renters for their Mesa home, selling their cars and most of their household items, and searching for families to adopt their three dogs.

Mary Anne Horn’s niece will be moving into her Mesa apartment, driving her car and taking care of her turtle, Henry.

Stacy Richardson is packing up her three young children and husband, selling the family car and finishing an overwhelming amount of paperwork.

All four are among 67 teachers hired in Arizona for one- and two-year teaching jobs in the Middle East and Asia through programs run by a Canadian company called Teach Away.

Forced to search elsewhere for teaching jobs in the lackluster economy, and looking for some adventure and job stability, 1,200 North American teachers have been hired for Teach Away jobs this year.

Applications have increased 300 percent in the past year, said Katarina Puzic, director of the Toronto-based company, which has been hiring teachers to work abroad since 2003.

The teachers say the opportunity is just too good: The pay ranges from $3,300 to $5,500 a month, tax free; teachers receive free room and board and a furniture stipend; flights, including a trip home every year, are free for the teachers and their families.

And once their contract ends, certified teachers receive a completion bonus of two months’ pay.

Education reform in the emirate of Abu Dhabi has forced schools there to teach core subjects in English instead of Arabic. That’s sent those schools scrambling worldwide to find English-speaking teachers to lead kindergarten through 12th-grade classes.

“They want students to be competitive in international markets with the goal of having students speak English in this global market,” Puzic said.

And by the time they’re done, Puzic said, the American teachers will have a broader perspective that makes them “able to adapt better in multicultural classrooms.”

“They become better teachers,” she said.

That’s the goal for the McCreas, who will both be teaching in the Abu Dhabi area and bringing along their 3-year-old daughter, Isareina.

Chris McCrea, 37, lost his job last year and then was asked to come back as a special-education teacher at Highland High School in Gilbert. Now, he’ll be teaching high-school English.

Katie McCrea, 34, lost her job as an eighth-grade reading teacher with Toltec Middle School in Eloy. She’s looking forward to teaching kindergarten, learning the language and going shopping.

“The money is amazing, and we’re looking forward to the different culture,” Katie said.

“The American education system is a mess,” she said. “I didn’t work my butt off at school to work in a sinking ship.”

Horn left her third-grade teaching job at Loma Linda Elementary School in Phoenix to move to Mesa. Despite her 20 years of experience, Horn, 51, couldn’t find another teaching job and works as a home health-care aide.

Teach Away hired her in June, and she will be teaching kindergarten in Abu Dhabi.

“I liked the adventure of it,” said Horn, who sold everything in 1996 to move to Arizona from her home state of New York. “I just needed another shake- up.”

Richardson, 30, last taught third and fourth grade in Utah before taking time off to have children and get her master’s degree in elementary education.

After getting her degree, she couldn’t find a teaching job. After five months of job searching, she was hired by Teach Away. She will be teaching third grade in the Abu Dhabi area.

“The kids are excited,” she said. “My daughter thinks that we’ll be living next door to camels.”

The Richardsons both spent more than a year in Brazil during a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They learned Portuguese in Brazil, and are planning to learn Arabic in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m excited to do what I love to do,” Richardson said.

“I will also learn to be a better teacher. It will better prepare me to teach students who have English as a second language. It’ll be the best of the best.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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