ASSOCIATION OF FIL-AM TEACHERS OF AMERICA, INC.  - 27 years of education and community service
  Historical Background

The Association of Fil-Am Teachers of America (AFTA)  (formerly the Association of Filipino Teachers  of America) was formed by Filipino from New York and New Jersey in 1989.  About 300 teachers got together because of a need to extend their visas in the USA in order for them to stay and work legally in the United States. 

There were two groups of Filipino teachers from which AFTA was founded.

The founders of what would eventually become AFTA came from New Jersey and New York.  The New Jersey founding members were Sevilla Belen Castillo, Florencia Culanag, Fay Deytiquez, George Enriquez, Leo Enriquez, Benilda Lara, Dolores Panal, Leonila Rosendo, and Nenita Muhi.  The founders from New York were composed of Joseph Abando, Mila Balquin, Bella Bataller Malek, Elaine Conty, Christopher Cruz, Mercy Juico, Imelda Lati, Nicol Miraflores, Lena Nidea, Alicia Panes, and Ma. Lourdes Teh-Bradley.

The New York New and New Jersey founding groups met and found the association which formally became AFTA (Association of Filipino Teachers of America).  The first president from the founding group was Christopher Cruz from New York. Months after the founding of AFTA, Christopher Cruz, left the organization and Lilia Juele, who joined the association after its founding, was elected president.  The group of teachers in 1989 took to every possible means to connect with people, public official, and organizations involved with immigration issues during  its tumultuous years from 1989 to 1991.  AFTA was so focused on working and campaigning for the extension of the H1-Visa from 5 years to 6 years that the incorporation waited until 1991. (There is an effort to re-build the database of the Filipino teachers who were with AFTA in 1989 during its effort in working towards the passage of the Immigration Law in 1991 and also honor them in AFTA's 25th Silver Jubilee Celebration in October, 2014.  Those names will be included in AFTA's history and posterity).

From 1989 to 1990, the AFTA teachers went on a major campaign in writing letters and made telephone calls to legislators in both Congress and the Senate to extend the H-1 Visa (permit to legally work in the U.S.).  The teachers worked with other advocacy groups from other nationalities, particularly the Irish Immigration advocacy group to gain power in the petition to extend the working visa.  Congressman Bruce Morrison from Connecticut in 1990, the author of an immigration bill that was in Congress at the time that the affect the H1-Visa extension of Filipino teachers
helped the teachers in being heard by various legislators who were pushing for the passage of the "Immigration Act of 1990."  The hard work of AFTA came into fruition with the inclusion of an extension of an H-1 from 5 years to 6 years in "The Act of 1990."  After the teachers got their green cards, the focus shifted to the professional development of teachers both in the United States and in the Philippines.

Bruce Morrison, pictured on the left (second from right with Lilia R. Juele, AFTA President in 1990 together with leaders from the Irish contingency who were also very involved with the H-1 Visa problems of immigrants in United States at the time. Reprinted from Filipino Reporter June 1-7 1990)

In 1993, AFTA embarked on the BALIKTURO MISSIONARY PROJECT, a teacher sharing program which brings a volunteer Filipino teacher based in the United States to go to the Philippines during the summer, instead of taking their summer break, to share the latest in teaching technologies.  Since then, teachers from the US composed of Filipinos and other nationalities have been going to the Philippines not only in the summer but anytime a teacher is   able to provide workshops to various educational institutions in the Philippines.  These workshops are on various techniques and strategies in the field of mathematics, science, reading, education, administration, and technology.  A few years later, the project became a yearlong activity and teachers going home for various reasons take the time to conduct a BALIKTURO seminar or workshop first in their hometown and if their schedule permits in various locations in the Philippines. 

      The first BALIKTURO (Return to Teach) delegation from left: Faye Deyquitiz, Edna Mata, Art Taylan, Jun Mariano, guest, Lilia Juele,
      with President Fidel Ramos, Education Secretaria Gloria, CFO Director Molano and Mr. Vince Vargas; who helped the first group
      of Balikturo teachers in connecting with various educational institutions in the Philippines, guest, and Linda Dikitanan.

Beginning in 1993, AFTA has gained prominence in the Filipino community by actively participating in the planning sessions of the Philippine Independence Day Committee (PIDC) in New York and the Philippine Friendship Committee (PAFCOM) in New Jersey for the spot for young Filipino students in its Tuklas Talino Program.

AFTA was officially incorporated in 1991 in the state of New York.  AFTA was established by its founders as a national organization in its constitution and by-laws empowering the organization to accept teachers as members and create extensions in various areas or regions in the United States.  Membership was initially created for Fil-Am teachers but has now been open to all nationalities. 


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