There’s a shortage of bilingual teachers. A new grant at Fresno State aims to change that

Fresno Unified gets new teachers ready for new year

New Fresno Unified teachers spend the weekend of Aug. 6-7 at McLane High School training to get the year started on the right foot.
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New Fresno Unified teachers spend the weekend of Aug. 6-7 at McLane High School training to get the year started on the right foot.

Fresno State is putting $3.75 million toward programs for Latino students who want to become teachers at Valley schools.

The new, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education will allow the university to recruit students at local high schools and put them on a pathway to a credential through Fresno City College or Reedley College and Fresno State’s own liberal studies program.

The goal is to address the teacher shortage, and particularly the shortage of bilingual teachers seen throughout California, according to Patricia D. Lopez, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Fresno State. Lopez will oversee the grant.

“As an institution, we are overwhelmingly teaching students who come from the region. And one thing we’ve found and the research has found is that Latino students are more likely to serve in high-needs schools,” Lopez said. “It’s our goal to remove the barriers that prevent them from accessing the profession.”

While Latino students are increasingly the majority at California schools, Latino teachers make up only about one-quarter of all teachers, according to a news release from the university. The result is that students have fewer opportunities to see a reflection of themselves and their experiences in their teachers, Lopez said.

Part of the issue is retention, according to Lopez: a study released this year found that Latino teachers leave the profession at higher rates than their peers.

“Folks are very mindful that it’s not enough to recruit into the profession. We need to prepare students, then retain them,” Lopez said. “You really do need a village.”

The purpose of involving the two community colleges is to expand the ability of all three campuses to serve Hispanic students, while also addressing a typical pathway that first-generation and Latino students might take to get to a credential program, according to Lopez.

Fresno State, Fresno City and Reedley College are all designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions, whose student bodies are at least 25 percent Hispanic. A news release from Fresno State said 80 percent of the university’s graduates stay and work in the Valley.

Much of the grant will go to hiring counselors at all three campuses dedicated to serving the would-be teachers.

“They’ll be on hand to address all levels – academic, financial, socio-emotional – of counseling, to really nurture our candidates and help them be successful,” Lopez said.

The teacher pipeline program will begin in 2019 with 30 students who will take community college classes for two years before transferring to Fresno State.

Aleksandra Appleton, 559-341-3747, @aleksappleton