An agreement signed by education leaders and ambassadors from Taiwan could send some Iowa teachers abroad. Department of Education Director Judy Jeffrey met for a signing ceremony with a delegation from the Taiwanese education department, to seal an agreement to work with them on a teacher exchange.

The education department’s Pam Pfitzenmaier says it’ll mean an expense-paid year abroad living and teaching in Taiwan, while some of that nation’s teachers work in classrooms here. The first stage of the exchange will be identifying interested Kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers from Iowa who’d like to spend a year in Taiwan teaching English language to elementary-age students.

Eventually organizers also hope to get some Taiwanese teachers willing to come here for a year and teach Chinese language. Perhaps the best part for professionals living on a teacher’s salary will be the cost of the exchange — nothing. The Taiwanese government supports this, so they’ll pay a housing stipend and a teaching salary for teachers who go over, as well as their ticket to fly over and back. Pfitzenmaier says it could be just the thing for someone near the end of their teaching career, or the person in the middle of their professional life interested in something different to do for a year.

You don’t have to speak Mandarin, or any dialect of Chinese to take advantage of the offer. They just want people who are native speakers of English — just as we’re hoping in the future to get some native Chinese speakers come and spend time wit our students, and our teachers. With the globalization of trade, she says it gets more important all the time to have kids learn foreign languages. The agreement signed in Des Moines on Tuesday is expected to pave the way for many educational exchange opportunities.