As a community consultant for the Kauffman Foundation, I recently traveled across the country and toured more than thirty schools.
On my final trip, I was walking the halls of a Houston charter school with a majority Latinx student population, and noticed that the makeup of educators did not reflect the diversity of the students being served. When I asked how the school recruited Latinx educators, the school leader responded that Latinx educators are hard to find and, furthermore, must be a good "culture fit" to be considered for a position in the classroom.
That was the first time I heard a school leader admit how difficult it was to find Latinx educators.
It was also the first time I heard a school leader mention that, even if Latinx educators are found, they have to pass a subjective “culture fit” test to be hired.
Based on my experiences as a professional of color—often the only one in the room—I reflected on how difficult it can be to fit into a majority culture.
Because of this fact, I believe the “culture fit” excuse is an unnecessary barrier to entry for an educator of color and might exclude educators of color from being hired. Experiences like this led me to establish the Latinx Education Collaborative.
This article is part of our Hispanic Heritage Month campaign to honor inspiring educators. Check out other stories like Edgar's here.
Why I established a nonprofit
To address the glaring lack of Latinx professionals in education, I established the Latinx Education Collaborative. The organization dutifully works to build a community of Latinx education professionals to provide networking opportunities and professional development, as well as improve representation of Latinx educators.
As part of that organization, I am on a mission to connect Latinx education professionals, increase and retain the overall percentage of Latinx education professionals, and help them thrive in their careers.
There’s a lot of work to be done: Only eight percent of teachers in the country identify as Latinx, compared to 22 percent of students; and Latinx teachers, while being the fastest-growing population entering the teaching workforce, are exiting the profession faster than other teachers.
Why we need to increase the number of Latinx educators
Representation matters. When minority students are exposed to teachers of their same race or ethnicity, research shows that they do better in school.
When students of color see someone who looks like them at the head of a classroom or as the leader of a school, they can envision themselves in those same roles.
This builds immediate trust and creates an environment where students of color can be their authentic selves without fear of being misunderstood.
The work I do with Latinx Education Collaborative is deeply personal to me: I bonded with those students in Houston. They reminded me of how lucky I was to have teachers that looked liked me, spoke Spanish, loved café con leche, and understood the threat of a chancla. I am keenly aware that many students today don’t have that same opportunity.
Our students of color deserve a quality, well-rounded education with educators who can connect with them on a cultural level. I hope that by creating a strong network of Latinx education professionals, students across the country will enjoy the benefits of having educators that look like them and be inspired to dream big, achieve and uplift their communities along the way.