THE BLOG
10/01/2014 01:45 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2014

Teach Orgullo. Create Oportunidad. Latino Leadership in Education.

Latino leadership is as diverse as our community -- we are not a single culture or a single experience, nor do we lead and give back in any single way. But I've had the privilege to get to know many Latino leaders through education, and I'd like to celebrate them today.

Emilio Solano began his career in 2010 as a middle school teacher at Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy in Los Angeles, California. Today, he remains in the classroom, and he's also become a crucial leader in his community.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to highlight teachers like Emilio. Emilio demonstrates his commitment to students in many ways. On the academic side, he helps students examine their own identities and gain thoughtful, critical perspectives on everything they learn; last year, he started his school's first Ethnic Studies Program. He's also an active mentor, making it to every sports game, every school play and every band performance. He gets involved in neighborhood events and forms strong bonds with families and students. Emilio's skill and passion haven't gone unnoticed -- he won Teach For America's Excellence in Teaching Award for 2014.

Emilio's a prime example of Latino leadership, and he's showing us the power of connection in the classroom. A great teacher has great impact, no matter who they are or where they're from, and can support their students in the ways that Emilio does every day. But as a Latino male, Emilio plays a particular role -- because for me, and many Latinos, it's been important to have teachers that have shared aspects of culture and background. Sometimes, language can be a connection. Sometimes, shared experiences bridge a student and an educator. Sometimes, simply the presence of a Latino role model in a child's everyday life can be an inspiration.

One in three Latino children live in low-income communities -- and nationally, just 73 percent of Latino high school students graduate on time. Our corps members work in Boston, Miami, East LA, and Kansas City -- many are from these very communities and share a history and understanding that helps them connect with students and families. A recent study by scholars at University of Connecticut pointed to Latino teachers as having a distinct, "forceful commitment to returning to schools like those they had attended to address systematic injustices in their own educational backgrounds." That, to me, is leadership. And it's a part of changing the narrative for Latino children -- and all children -- in this nation.

At Teach For America, we're working, alongside many others, to be a part of this movement. In addition to bringing incredible teachers to the field each year, we're launching a campaign called "Choices" geared at encouraging more Latino educators to enter the field and make change. We're trying to expand our Teach for America familia and unite with other Latino leaders--our goal is to "Teach orgullo. Create oportunidad." To brainstorm and learn from one another, we'll be hosting a google hangout on October 15th, with Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, along with other leaders. We'll also be sharing resources and ways to get involved throughout the month.

As Latinos, as Americans, as citizens of this world, we are called, now and always, to act. We are called to educate. We are called to support our children and help them reach their full potential. You too can Teach Orgullo. Create oportunidad. Join us.