Watch: "Amplify: Alexandro Ornelas" | 2:46

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Would school look different if I had a teacher that looked like me?
Edgar Palacios
Founder Latinx Education Collaborative

Would school look different if I had a teacher that looked like me?

Founder of the Latinx Education Collaborative knows firsthand the importance of representation in schools.

Representation in classrooms is one of the levers that can have the greatest impact. @ejpkc, @latinxedco #AmplifyKC #RethinkEd

Uncommon
Voices

Alexandro (see video above) is right. There is a "low amount" of teachers of color, particularly from the Latinx community. While 25% of students in K-12 are Latinx, only 9% of teachers are Latinx. Emerging data suggest that students have better educational outcomes when they see themselves reflected in the teachers and administrators that serve them. So, as the Latinx community continues to grow, the number of quality Latinx teachers must increase as well. Latinx teachers tend to both enter and exit the teaching profession at the highest rates of any community, therefore identifying and implementing successful retention strategies is imperative.

This issue is personal to me. I was born in Miami Beach, Florida, where the Latinx community is strong. Until 6th grade, I attended schools that had Latinx teachers. As a child, I was unaware of the struggles Latinos faced on a national level. I was fortunate to live in a community where Latinos were represented in every facet of life. Yet, in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, my family moved to the Pacific Northwest, where I attended middle school.

I quickly became aware that I was different. My classmates called me slurs and often reminded me that I was a "dirty Mexican," even though my family is from Nicaragua. Outside of my parents, I did not have anyone that I could turn to for help. At that time, I did not think my parents would understand, and therefore, I did not share my experiences with them. When I moved to small town in Missouri, the bullying increased dramatically, and I was called every name in the book because of my Latinx heritage. I look back at my time and wonder if things would have been different if I had a Latinx teacher that I could talk to.

Representation is the one lever in education that I feel can have the greatest impact. It is of critical importance that Latinx students see themselves reflected in positions of leadership, so they can overcome systemic inequities and succeed.

I founded the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC) to be a part of creating a world where Latinx students thrive and become well-positioned, influential leaders working to advance their community. We believe it starts by increasing the number of quality Latinx teachers. And by supporting educators like Alexandro that have already committed to improving the lives of students.

The LEC is built on the following values and guiding principles:

  • Fellowship: We strengthen, support, and grow the existing Latinx education community. We meet community partners where they are to build shared experiences, frameworks, and outcomes that advance educational missions. We foster collaboration to build vibrant communities where Latinx teachers feel supported at all stages of their careers.
  • Equity and Inclusion: We support schools, districts, and educators in creating inclusive work cultures. We prepare Latinx students to contribute as change agents working toward a more just and equitable society.
  • Enhancing the Craft: We provide culturally competent professional and leadership development opportunities to educators evolving their craft.
  • Career Advancement: We connect Latinx education professionals with career advancement opportunities and support the recruitment and hiring process.
  • Impact: We focus on the results for educators and students. If it doesn't work for these key stakeholders, we don't do it. We continually adapt and innovate to ensure LEC's resilience and relevance.
  • Advocacy: We are effective stewards, promoting education as a viable and fulfilling career option for the Latinx community and championing Latinx student success.


Uncommon Voices columns bring outside perspectives into the the Kauffman Foundation's coverage of the future of learning, work, and place. If you have an idea for a column, please read the guidelines for contributors.


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