It’s no secret, finding qualified teachers is a challenging task for just about every school district in the U.S. It can be more challenging to find qualified teachers that represent a student population.
Dr. Roland Hernandez is the superintendent of the Corpus Christi Independent School District, a district succeeding where many around the country are struggling. It matches the diversity of its students with that of its teachers.
In recent years, the progress of students who identify as Hispanic has shattered many myths. The dropout rate has plummeted and the number of Hispanic immigrants with college degrees has skyrocketed.
Across America, 27% of students identify as Hispanic, compared with just 9% of teachers. In Clark County in Las Vegas, Hispanic individuals make up nearly half the student body and 1/8 of licensed faculty. In Nashville, they make up 22% of students and less than 2% of teachers.
“They need that exposure to people that they feel most comfortable with, look like them, and can become mentors,” Dr. Hernandez said.
Teachers like Omar Diaz grew up on the west side of Corpus Christi. He is an alum of the same school where he is currently teaching. He knows he plays an important role in the future of his students.
“It opens up a window for them to actually see beyond just finishing high school— become teachers, become doctors, become lawyers, become whatever it is they want to become because it is possible,” Diaz said.
Casandra Brulloths is planning to become a heart doctor after she graduates from high school and college.
“People underestimate us because of our skin or because of our background. Even at swim meets, they look down upon us," she said. "They’re like, ‘Oh, they’re not that good.’ Or they underestimate us. And we show out all the time.”
Numerous reports through the years have found that Black students fare better in school districts with Black teachers. A recent report found the same result with Hispanic students, even if “Hispanic” itself doesn’t begin to cover the complexity.
“It’s to really connect with our students, recognizing them for who they are,” Dr. Hernandez said.
“To me, that’s what teaching is about— that there was no hope for that kid, and somewhere something you did somewhere along the line, they change around, and they do something with their life,” Diaz added.