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Two Americas: Latino representation in Kansas City classrooms

Two Americas
Posted at 7:49 PM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 23:22:14-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Nationally, research shows that on average, a teacher leaves a classroom after five years. But teacher retention rates for Latino teachers show it’s after three years.

In KSHB 41’s latest Two Americas, Megan Abundis reports how an education nonprofit in Kansas City, Missouri, is fighting to support Latino educators.

“I think people should care about this, and should know about this, because our students are struggling,” Susana Elizarraraz, with the LatinX Education Collaborative, said.

Elizarraraz says her heart is with the Kansas City area Latino students.

She says post-pandemic, classrooms have seen it all: students with behavior issues, lower math and reading scores and lagging socio-emotional development.

Elizarraraz knows what could help change this.

She works at the LatinX Education Collaborative in the Pendleton Heights neighborhood in KCMO, which fights to increase Latino teacher representation in schools.

Elizarraraz says the nonprofit is inspiring Latino students to work in education, increasing Latino families value in schools and above all, supporting educators socially, emotionally and through physical well-being.

“We’d mix crayons in order to get the right skin color, we bought the school those Crayola’s multi-cultural packs,” she said.

According to Elizarraz, this is because she knows that when students have teachers that look like them, it can make a difference.

Research From Johns Hopkins University shows higher graduation rates, better math and reading scores and attendance.

In the Kansas City area, 30% of the students are Latino, but she says the numbers aren’t matching up with teachers.

“We found out less than 1% of teachers in Kansas City are LatinX," she said. "That’s the KC metro, out to Olathe, to Blue Springs north and south — 261 total teachers."

Elizarraz said the nonprofit decided to look even deeper into the numbers.

“We found out that in 2018, only 11 LatinX people got certified to teach secondary education in the whole state of Missouri,” she said.

These are somber numbers that 15-year-old Janette Garcia and her mom Erika, see too.

“I’m in mostly honors classes, so you don’t see a lot of diversity within the students, but also the teachers," Janette Garcia said.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Erika Garcia said. “When I immigrated to this country, I did have a Latino teacher, she was the person I looked for and at.”

This is something she wants for her daughter and her extended family.

“Maybe so I can express concerns and have that trust to be able to seen and heard in that environment,” Janette said.

While many school districts say they are implementing overall equality, diversity and inclusion policies, Elizzararaz worries it’s being treated as a check mark.

“Yes, that’s a step in the right direction and that makes me so excited and really happy," she said. "But to really look at the perspective of our students in schools, and to be informed by our student experience, parent experience and teacher experience."

Community leaders weighed in on what they would like to see.

“Is that we make our community aware that Latinos are here to stay," Christy Moreno, with Revolucion Educativa, said. “That we are members of this community, that our children are not only the present, but the future.”

“It’s going to take time, resources from us investing in kids,” Elizarraraz said.