What was once a fairytale for the latino community is now a reality -- an amazing moment in American history and an indication of what is yet to come. We witnessed a Latina Supreme Court justice swear in the Vice President, a Pedro Pan child, now pastor give the inaugural benediction, and a latino teacher and poet weave in his immigrant experience and the importance and influence of his mother (as would be a necessary for many of us) in his story and our broader latino story to commemorate the start of our 44th president's next term.
In a nation where we latinos have the highest poverty rates and where we are the least likely to attend and graduate college, this momentous occasion is a true bright spot and a very visible step in the right direction. We also know that education played a critical role in each of these latino leaders lives and in them having a place in the history that was made at the inauguration.
While we strive to achieve "one today" as a nation as recited by Richard Blanco, Teach For America (TFA) strives to achieve "one day" for our latino community and the hundreds of thousands of latino children we teach so that they can see themselves not as characters or caricatures but as the judges, pastors or writers that they can now see and have aspirations to be. We believe that great teachers are critical and that great teachers who share the backgrounds of our children have a profound additional impact in their classrooms and are absolutely critical leaders in the fight for educational equity.
A recent study designed to inform how we can better attract, prepare, support, and retain latino teachers supports this belief. The study, by University of Connecticut scholars Jason Irizarry and Morgaen Donaldson, showed evidence that latinos at three distinct points along the teacher pipeline (high school students, undergraduate pre-service teachers, and in-service Teach For America teachers) "displayed a forceful commitment to returning to schools like those they had attended to address systematic injustices in their own educational backgrounds."
Latino teachers in the sample of TFA teachers were more committed to entering teaching and to serving in low-income schools, whether through TFA or another route. Narratives of pre-service teachers and high school students document a community-minded drive to become teachers despite facing inordinate challenges tied to their community's status and the obstacles they themselves faced in acquiring a great education.
To ensure more of our latino children have the opportunity to realize their dreams, it is critical that we increase the number of latino role models who are leading our classrooms and schools. Our undergraduate and college educated latinos can have an incredible impact in their own communities through the field of education. Teach For America is one path, but by no means the only path. At TFA, many of our latino teachers are making long-term leadership commitments to their classrooms while others are taking on other leadership roles in education and surrounding fields so they can continue to advocate for providing a great education to all latino children.
It is heartening to see how our latino narrative is changing for the better. Let us ensure that our voice, our experience and the excellent education we give our children is found in the non-fiction section of the bookstore for years to come. We have tremendous work ahead of us and adding to the force of great, diverse teachers is central to ensuring our dream and the story of our children have a happy ending.