The Education Trust released a report that consisted of responses from 90 Latino teachers. These teachers were from five states: California, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas. They were asked questions regarding the complexities that arise when teaching Latino students, as well as their relationship with white colleagues. The study also touched on the participants’ vision for professional advancement.
The report found that there is an importance of having Latino instructors in classrooms that consist of large numbers of Latino students. Additionally, there is generally an expectation that Latino teachers serve as Spanish-language resources for families within their schools. Research found that California has the widest gap between Latino students and teachers, with 36%.
Despite the fact that teachers make up half of the public school workforce, less than 10% of teachers for K-12 students are Latino. With about 25% of K-12 students being Latino, this shows a significant gap. Unfortunately, this gap could mean that Latino students lack the opportunity to see themselves represented in teaching positions.
Many Latino teachers see their roles as an opportunity to provide an example for students of a first- or second-generation American. They feel a special kinship with students who share their background and can relate to Latino-based concerns, particularly deportation and family separation.
While they do want to connect and help their Latino students as much as possible, the added work of having to mediate between Latino parents and the school can be overwhelming on top of their regular teaching duties.
“I think of even student-teacher conferences [that leave] parents and families feeling unwelcome … and no one’s going to [help] the families that they can’t communicate with,” one teacher said. “Suddenly, I’m in charge of every Hispanic student that we have in sixth grade, which is the majority of all of our students, and it’s an extra job on top of my job to communicate with all those families.”
There are concerns about this gap between Latino students and teachers increasing further. Data shows that there are about 20,000 teachers eligible for DACA, or are current DACA recipients. If legislation decides to end this program, it would be a devastating blow to the already minimally diverse education population.
Despite the current struggles, there are opportunities to close the gap. Experts suggest issues financial incentives to help students pursue teaching degrees. Because Latinos currently fall behind other ethnic groups in college graduation, and more people are choosing non-education paths, financial incentives may help them push past financial barriers.