The Search Is on for Hispanic Teachers and Role Models Districts Look near and Far for People to Guide Rising Hispanic Student Population

By Patterson, Jennifer | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 24, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Search Is on for Hispanic Teachers and Role Models Districts Look near and Far for People to Guide Rising Hispanic Student Population


Patterson, Jennifer, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jennifer Patterson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Ernesto Cruz began teaching bilingual math and science classes at Carpentersville Middle School eight years ago.

It was a midlife career change for the now 54-year-old Hoffman Estates man.

He had a good job as the manager of a plant in Palatine, a nice home and a happy family.

"I had everything I wanted and I thought, 'These kids deserve the same,' " he said. "Anything I can do to make their life better, I'd do it."

If only Community Unit District 300 could find more like him.

Just 3.4 percent of teachers in District 300 schools are Hispanic. Yet, the district's Hispanic student population is 20.6 percent, according to school report card data released last week by state school officials.

The data shows the state average for school districts is 3.7 percent Hispanic teachers, while the Hispanic student population averages 16.2 percent across the state.

Still, a teacher's a teacher, you may say.

True.

But administrators and experts alike say you can't overlook the value of having a familiar role model for students who find themselves immersed in a different culture, surrounded by a foreign language, and headed for an uncertain future.

Long-distance recruiting

In fact, many think having Hispanic teachers in schools with Hispanic students is so important that they're recruiting from as far away as Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain as a way to help ensure students are served in the best manner possible.

"Probably the biggest challenge we have is recruiting Hispanic teachers," said Brian Husted, District 300's assistant superintendent for personnel. "There is simply not an adequate supply."

A general teacher shortage in Illinois and across the nation is well-documented.

Trying to find teachers with special certifications in areas like special education, industrial arts, and bilingual education - many of whom are Hispanic - is even more difficult, Husted said.

"A huge number of Hispanic kids don't graduate from high school," said Else Hamayan, director of the Illinois Resource Center in Des Plaines. "They're not finding role models in the education community. They're not getting the right kind of instruction.

"We're just not growing our own teachers."

Finding more teachers

The Illinois Resource Center provides resources and assistance for teachers with students of many cultures and languages.

The center is trying to reverse that trend with a program called "Transitions to Teaching."

The grant-funded program offers scholarships for bilingual people to take classes to become certified to teach, she said.

So far, about 100 people have received scholarships and have started down that path.

Hamayan said that amount, however, is "minimal in context of the need."

Some area school districts have taken to recruiting out of the country in efforts to bring in more Hispanic teachers. …

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