Half of the 22 students expected to graduate work for Evergreen Public Schools and will graduate from WSU Vancouver, while the other half will graduate from WSU Tri-Cities. The vast majority are Latino or Hispanic.
But Gisela Ernst-Slavit, a WSU Vancouver educational leadership professional and lead faculty member on the ELL-IMPACT program, pointed to a new barrier for prospective teachers of color: projected multimillion-dollar budget deficits across the county and state.
“Districts might not hire too many teachers in the fall due to budget constraints,” Ernst-Slavit said by email. “We’ll see.”
Adam Aguilera, a Latino teacher who was featured in last year’s series, was recently appointed to the Professional Educator Standards Board. The board is advocating for legislation that would reduce the barriers for teachers of color to enter the workforce and teaching programs. Aguilera and the board have pointed to the WEST-B, a basic skills test candidates must take before entering teaching programs in the first place, as a roadblock for would-be teaching candidates.
“Some are already in the classrooms on an emergency certification and yet they’re unable to pass these tests,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera teaches in Evergreen Public Schools and leads equity training for members of the Washington Education Association, the state’s teachers’ union. This year he’s on special assignment, leading professional development for teachers and substituting in other classrooms across the district. When he enters classrooms, he said, students of color pepper him with questions.
“They look at my last name written on the board and they ask me questions about my heritage,” he said. Recently at a middle school, a student pointed out to him that he was the first Latino teacher he’d ever had.
“For me, living that every day as an educator shows me just how important it is for the educator workforce to reflect the students that we serve and our communities,” he said.