Amaya Garcia and Shayna Cook wrote an article for Slate about the disparities in racial and linguistic diversity among the K-12 student population and the teacher workforce.
Yazmin Gil moved to the United States from Mexico when she was 16. Three years later and barely out of high school, Gil was hired as a teacher’s assistant in a Washington state school district where instruction was split between English and Spanish. “I was the native [Spanish] speaker. The teacher was not a native speaker. I was doing the Spanish instruction two days and the next two days she would do the English instruction,” Gil says. Yet she was still earning the salary of a teacher’s aide, also known as a paraprofessional—about half of what certified teachers earn annually.
Gil is now a kindergarten teacher in a dual immersion program, but getting her certification took her eight years at three different schools. The district she worked in as a teacher’s assistant paid for her first semester of college; once that financial support was gone, Gil moved to community college. Later, to accommodate her work schedule, she took classes at night and on weekends. “It was a long journey,” she says.