In L.A., Duncan Promotes Teaching as a Starring Role for Latinos

In L.A., Duncan Promotes Teaching as a Starring Role for Latinos

As part of the NBA All-Star Weekend, Arne affirmed his commitment to the arts and his gratitude to the NBA and corporate sponsors by serving for a day in area schools. Here Arne paints an urban mural with students at Virgil Middle School. The NBA and its corporate partners donated professional-grade equipment and computers to the school.

During a visit to Los Angeles last week, Secretary Duncan and a handful of celebrities challenged an energetic group of Latino students to change their community by doing two things: going to college and becoming teachers.

The roundtable discussion at Edward A. Roybal Learning Center included a star-powered panel of education advocates: boxing great Oscar De La Hoya; Grammy-award-winner John Legend; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, several classroom teachers, and Arne.

In L.A., Duncan Promotes Teaching as a Starring Role for Latinos

While in L.A., Arne participated in a BBVA All-Star basketball game, playing against teen star, Justin Bieber. Bieber was awarded MVP, though Duncan’s team won the game that was part of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

Duncan stressed the importance of recruiting Latino teachers to educate the most rapidly growing demographic in our nation’s public schools. Mayor Villaraigosa shared that more than 70 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s students are Latino, yet fewer than 25 percent of the district’s teachers are of Latino descent.

Duncan argued that Latinos who are concerned about social justice should view education as the single greatest civil rights issue of our time. De La Hoya, a product of East Los Angeles, shared a powerful story of his high school government teacher, Mr. Benson, who changed his life forever and provided him the strength, confidence and encouragement to persevere and become a gold medal Olympian and prizefighter.

In L.A., Duncan Promotes Teaching as a Starring Role for Latinos

Boxing great and education advocate Oscar de la Hoya responds to a question from the students. Latino high school students in Los Angeles expressed concern with state budget cuts to public institutions of higher learning.

As the discussion about the teaching profession concluded and the moderator fielded questions from the audience of primarily Latino high school students, the tone of the conversation shifted. Students cried out for access to higher education so frequently that it emerged as the central theme. They asked very thoughtful, critical questions to Secretary Duncan about the DREAM Act, PELL grants, and making college more accessible to students like them.

As a Latino male and an educator, I am highly encouraged by the Obama administration’s dedication to recruiting more Latinos to the teaching profession. As the Hispanic population in our nation continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, the future of our nation will depend on how effective we are in educating these students. Mi gente, our time is NOW. Change your community: TEACH!

Jeffrey Camarillo

Jeff Camarillo is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who works at East Palo Alto Academy High School, a Stanford New School in East Palo Alto, Calif.


  1. Well said, Audrey! It can be said about American Indian/Alaska Native students also. It is well worth it for these students to see that there are teachers of their culture-someone who understands where they come from, how they learn, and wants to be there with the students. Not everyone from outside of the culture has these attributes.

  2. Its amazing how little people understand education and the impact single teachers can have on students. Latino students need to SEE latino teachers in the schools for multiple reasons. They need to see that people “like” them can go to college and get make something of themselves and give back to the community. These people are called postive role models, maybe you have heard of them. Secondly, a student cannot be successful in school with out building the right supportive relationships. These relationships can be built on a cultural understanding,cultural sensitivy is critical to all students. No one is saying that a Romanian teacher cannot teach a latino student successfully, but that does not mean that that student does not need to see successful Latinos around him/her on a regular basis. Finally, to make a comment that these “looser” families (spelled loser, by the way) are blaming anyone or that they are not accountable is simply bigotry at its best. If you had any knowledge of latino culture then you would know that for the most part no one expects teachers to raise their children but they do respect and hold educators at such a high esteem that they (latino parents) feel that these teachers are the only ones who can truly teach their children.
    However, the education system in this country is not up to par and it is failing ALL our students. Yes, it starts at home but dont forget that children spend 8 hours a day in a school building, those teachers and that curriculum can make or break a child. So lets focus instead on the fact that children cant read, and less and less black students are going to college, and that nowadays students are taking 5-8 years to graduate with a 4 year degree (regardless of skin color or ethnic back ground).

  3. What makes people think that a latino teacher is going to result in better students? If a student has a bad home environment, the ethnic background of the teacher is not going to make any difference. Why can’t a mexican student accel under the tutelage of a Romanian teacher? It’s frustrating that my property tax dollars are spent on looser families that blame the teachers for their kids not succeeding. Parents want teachers to “raise” their kids and teachers want more $$$ for babysitting. I don’t have kids, but I’m stuck paying for ’em.

  4. As a fellow Latino, I have to agree that it shouldn’t matter in this country if you are getting your education from a white, black, asian and or hispanic. Education should be delivered by the best unbias qualified instructors, whatever thier skin color. Although, I believe that there are less latino’s per capata that are interested in a higher education. Not because they can’t aquaire it, but because they just don’t grow up believing they can achieve it. You see there are plenty of successful Latino’s in this country, but the difference between the successful ones and the unsuccessful ones is the amount of confidence,dicipline and support that they got from thier parents while growing up, is what’s indicative of thier success. You see,growing up like most Latino’s in Los Angeles. I’m a product of my envirement. And that is to say that the majority of latino children grow up to fathers that are uneducated,audulters,abusive drug addicts and or alchohalics. You see the reason the inner city’s of Los Angeles are as bad as they are is because of the Parents and the Communities that don’t care about the kids future. For example latino kids gowing up in more expensive town (e.x Beverly Hills,San Marino…)would have a better chance of success not because of the parents but because of the local community and neighbors pushing for all the local kids,thus becoming products of thier own environment. You see I don’t think that it’s a bad Idea to promote education to the latino community, but lets not forget that it’s not all up to the teacher (being black,white,hispanic,armenian and or asian)it’s about the community colaborating to facilitate an environment that would support education. All of this being for future teachers, doctors and or lawyers and Corporate CEO’s. I do believe we can make a difference in this community if we could only get the alchohalism ,drugs and audultery out of the community long enough, to give these parents and kids a fighting chance.

  5. I am happy that Mr. Mena appears to be an excellent teacher, however I don’t believe being Latino should be what’s noted in education. It should be education alone not whether the teacher is Latino, Black, White, Indian. None of that matters when the education of young people is involved. The skills of the “person”, the personality of the “person” as it relates to communicating with the student is what is important. This nation needs to unite in education not in ethnic. Each person has the right to an education not just Latino, white, or black. We as a nation need to look at each individual as a person who teaches NOT as a Latino who teaches.

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