Oakland Local

By Jacibe Gameros, Castlemont High School student

Castlemont High School needs more Latino staff and teachers so that students can relate more to teachers and staff while at school.

This year, there are 36 teachers at Castlemont and only 9% (three full-time and one part-time) are Latina or Latino. This makes it so that students feel like they aren’t represented. While this is better than in past years, it is still not enough.

Ana Gallegos, an art teacher at Castlemont, agrees there should be more Latino teachers on campus.

“It’s important for students to see who they can relate to,” she said. There needs to be balance, “in terms of more diversity, more Latina/o teachers from grades K-12,” she said.

In the 2011-2012 school year, there were zero Latino teachers at Castlemont, according to the Ed-Data website of the California Department of Education.

Having few Latino teachers makes students feel like they are not represented and it makes it more difficult for non-English speakers to get through school.

Fifty-four percent of students going to Castlemont are Latina or Latino. Of these, 19 percent speak Spanish as their first language.

Isela Garcia, a 16-year-old student at Castlemont, said she doesn’t think there are enough Latino teachers at Castlemont. She believes there should be more.

“Having more Latino teachers makes me feel more represented and proud,” said Garcia. “It [would be] not just helpful, but also because having Latino teachers shows positives in our race and (dis)proves negatives to those who think Latinos are not capable of doing anything good.”

According to Norma Liliana Verdugo, a Spanish teacher at Castlemont, there should be more Latino teachers on campus.

“I feel like our Latino kids relate to me, so that’s very important,” she said. It is especially important, she said, “that I can communicate with their parents. Sometimes that’s hard to do if you do not speak the language.”

(Note: the Oakland Unified School District has been seeking to recruit Latino and Latina teachers through its Teach for Tomorrow program. For more information, visit Teach Tomorrow In Oakland.)

Find links to the complete “Education Voices: Youth seek identity” series HERE.

Ms. Gameros reported and wrote this story while participating in the Oakland Local Education Voices program in collaboration with Youth Uprising and Castlemont High School. The program was funded by The California Endowment. Find links to the complete series HERE. The stories also appear on Castlemont’s CastleCrier newspaper. Education Voices instructors Shaka Redmond of Youth Uprising and Irene Florez, Barbara Grady and Jon Leckie of Oakland Local congratulate Jacibe for her good work.

6 thoughts on “Education Voices: Teens see need for more Latino/Latina teachers

  1. What difference does it make what race the teachers are as long as they are good teachers . Once again we are catering to specific people. To me it is like making classes language specific to the races . When I was in school English was what all classes were in .Unless you took a foreign language class.

  2. William, your comment appears not to hear, or to ignore, what’s being said.
    1. Your question “what difference does it make” is precisely the point of this article. (Did you read it?) The students specifically said that it makes a difference because they want to see positive role models whose background and experience is similar to theirs. This is helpful in inspiring students to learn and succeed, and also in practical matters, such as communicating with families of different linguistic and potentially cultural backgrounds. All this is from the article.
    2. “…as long as they are good teachers.” Neither teaching, learning, nor communicating is a matter of transmitting cold information to computer-brains. Relationships and atmospheres affect learning. They affect growth. Being a “good teacher” is more than knowing your subject. So yes, this school wants “good teachers”–teachers who can understand, motivate, and thus successfully teach kids. (And also, of course, know their subjects. No one is suggesting hiring unqualified people.)
    3. “catering to specific people” — …yeah, the students. Diversity has a positive impact on all students. Google it.
    4. “it is like making classes language specific to the races” This makes no sense. The white teachers would not go away. True, white students would most likely have classes with Latin@ teachers. Are you saying that that would be unfair to white students? If so, see above, and also, you’re a racist jerk. ;)

  3. Elle,

    Is the under representation due to the school not wanting to hire Latinos/Latinas or could it be, like many other professional careers, that there simply not that many Latinos/Latinas teachers?

    Also, I find it funny in that in point #3 you mention that diversity has a positive impact on the students but yet catering to have Latino/Latina teachers to teach Latino/Latina students is somehow more diverse than having a mixed group of people with mixed experiences? Where is the celebration of diversity there??

    Good teachers are able to influence kids regardless of their race. From personal experience I can tell you with absolute certainty that the teachers who had a positive influence on me, my kids, my family/friends, and my colleagues didn’t depend on whether they were the same race as ourselves.

  4. When I was in school–in a California city in the 70s and 80s—many of the teachers were African American women and there were a few Asian and Latina women. But most were black women and they were (for the most part, there were exceptions) really wonderful, dedicated and there was never a shred of prejudice on anyone’s part (that I detected). My mother told me that there were so many black and other minority women in teaching because that door was opened to them, in The Bay Area at least, to work after the Civil Rights movement and the profession was (still is) a traditional path for women.

    I have children in Oakland schools and I see less and less diversity in the teachers. There’s less men and far less minorities. One reason is there are simply other careers opportunities to make a better living. This is invariably true for Latino college grads. If the profession paid better and was better supported by our society instead of demonized, maybe more minority graduates would consider it. But for some who have overcome some obstacles to get that degree, how can they go into a profession that doesn’t begin to support them financially for decades?

  5. Technically, I agree with the comments that claim that race shouldn’t be the big focus. But you do want a plurality (if not a majority) of the teachers in the school to live in the same communities as the students, share similar cultural backgrounds and similar experiences. Race, as a proxy, turns out to be a pretty decent measure of those things. So maybe it’s not so bad to focus on race.

    And I don’t think suggesting that we need more Latino/Latina teachers is anti-diversity. It’s simply pointing out that latinos are ridiculously underrepresented in the teaching staff, and to achieve that healthy diversity in the staff you probably want a couple more.

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