To build and maintain a teacher workforce that is representative and capable of serving an increasingly diverse student population, district leaders must pay as much attention to understanding and creating the right conditions to retain Latino teachers as they do to recruiting them. This starts with listening to, and learning from, Latino teachers, according to a report by the Education Trust, “Our Stories, Our Struggles, Our Strengths: Perspectives and Reflections from Latino Teachers.”
Despite the fact that Latino students make up 25% of the U.S. student population, only 8% of the nation’s teachers identify as Latino. And while greater numbers of Latino teachers are entering the classroom, they (like other teachers of color) are leaving the profession at higher rates than their peers.
“We should do everything we can to attract and retain more well-prepared, effective, and well-supported Latino teachers in our classrooms,” said John B. King Jr., president and CEO of the Education Trust. “Students of color benefit from having teachers who can serve as positive role models and illustrate the potential of what they can be. But diverse educators matter for all students. As a nation, we must do more to support and recognize the experiences of teachers of color at all points across the pipeline so students today can benefit from and become the teachers and mentors of tomorrow.”
The report presents findings from a series of nationally representative focus groups, adding rigorous qualitative data to the ongoing national conversation about teacher diversity. The purpose of these focus groups was to better understand Latino teachers’ experiences separately from the broad category of teachers of color, including why they teach, what they believe they bring to the classroom and the field, and what challenges they face in the workplace.
“First and foremost, what we found is that Latino teachers are a diverse group. In every discussion, we heard educators identify by their country of origin, their immigration status, their language, and their race. It was a continuous reminder that the Latino teacher experience in our country is based on cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds that not only differ from other teachers of color, but also from each other,” said Ashley Griffin, PhD, report author and Ed Trust’s interim director of P–12 research.
“Yet, despite their differences, they held a common passion for teaching, sharing their culture with all students, and creating empowering spaces and encouraging students to do the same.”
“Our Stories, Our Struggles, Our Strengths” expounds on the challenges of Latino teachers, who:
- had a penchant to connect to and teach Latino students well, but, at the same time, were often viewed as inferior teachers and restricted to only teaching Latino students;
were often belittled or perceived as aggressive when they incorporated Latino culture or Spanish language in the classroom, especially when advocating for Latino students and parents;
- often accepted additional roles, most often as translators (even when they did not speak Spanish), but were overlooked for advancement opportunities; and
- related well to all students and served as role models for Latino students especially, but still felt they had to validate their ability to teach.
“While research shows that students from all races benefit from being taught by an educator of color, our study shows that the discrimination and stereotyping that Latino teachers face leave them feeling discouraged and perceived as unqualified to be professional educators, which hurts the teachers and in turn students,” said Griffin. “By listening to and learning from Latino teachers, school leaders can start to create and implement supports and working environments aimed at increasing the number of Latino teachers and retaining them.”
The report is available at http://www.edtrust.org/LatinoTeachers.