Hartford Public Schools (HPS) have over 17,000 students, and more than half are Hispanic-Latino; more than 1 in 5 are English language learners.
Struggling with the same staffing shortages faced by districts across the country, HPS is recruiting bilingual educators from Puerto Rico to fill teacher vacancies ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.
Through the Paso a Paso Puerto Rico Recruitment Program (step by step) — the district plans to recruit as many as 15 teachers from the island who would become full-time educators.
Adriana Beltran-Rodriguez is one of them, “I was interested in helping the students feel like they’re not completely alienated in the school.” The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) educator told WBUR, “For them (students) to know that there’s someone that cares about them and wants them not only to succeed in English but to honor their culture and their language.”
Beltran-Rodriguez is one of two TESOL teachers who make up a team of seven at Michael D. Fox Elementary School to support about 230 multilingual learners from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Island and worldwide.
Research shows that academic outcomes for English language learners are better when students are first taught in their native language and English.
“So, this is a novel approach to help Puerto Rican bilingual teaching talent gain certification in Connecticut, and specifically bolster the Hartford Public Schools teaching force,” Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said.
Paso a Paso will include two years of support services for teachers to relocate and adjust to Hartford’s community. Selected candidates receive a competitive salary, a $5,000 signing bonus and a moving stipend.
Dr. Madeline Negrón, Chief of Academics, Teaching & Learning in the Hartford Public Schools also expects Paso a Paso will help diversify the teaching workforce. ”Because a place like Hartford, we have to ensure that our students can see themselves reflected in the teachers that are in front of them,” Negrón said in an interview with NBC Connecticut.
Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from WBUR, NBC Connecticut, and The Hartford Courant.