PROVO, Utah (AP) — Latino students make up the largest ethnic minority group in Utah, but teachers and administrators of the same group are rare, making up just 2.5 percent of educators compared to 17 percent of the state’s student body.
Only two of the 130 schools in Utah County have a Latino principal, according to Latinos in Action and the Utah chapter of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.
“I do get a lot of students, when I tell them I’m the principal, they’re surprised because they don’t picture the principal of a large, comprehensive high school as someone who looks like them,” said Fidel Montero, principal of Timpview High School in Provo.
Latino educators make up the third-largest group of educators in Utah. In second place at 4 percent are those who declined to say what they identify as, the Daily Herald reported .
Provo City School District has the highest percentage of Latino students in Utah County, 24 percent, according to 2017 enrollment information. The Alpine and Nebo school districts have about 12 percent.
Latino interest groups worry that as the number of Latinos in the area grows, the gap between Latino students and educators will widen.
Latinos in Action has a leadership program that has spread to more than 100 schools.
It’s already produced two school counselors, said Jose Enriquez, founder and CEO of Latinos in Action and a former administrator.
Part of the challenge is convincing Latino students to continue on to college and pursue an education career, said Axel Ramirez, a professor of secondary education and the facilitator of the Latino Educators of Tomorrow program at Utah Valley University.
Immigrant families like Ramirez’s often encourage Latino students to become doctors or lawyers, not teachers.
His mother told him: “‘I didn’t come to this country for you to just be a teacher.'”
Many of those who decide to pursue a career in education do it to be an important role model for Latino students, he said.
“They want to give back to the teachers that helped them and mentored them and also help the next generation so they don’t have the same experiences,” Ramirez said.
The Latino Educators of Tomorrow program hopes to help Latino education majors by providing them with emotional support and mentoring.
The Utah chapter of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents guides its members through the hiring process, connects them to role models and provides scholarships.
The group wants to double the number of Latino administrators in the next five years. Its goal is to eventually match student demographics.