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LEC partners for Impact Academy

The Latinx Education Collaborative was selected by Guadalupe Centers High School students as a client for a design thinking project program, part of the school’s new Impact Academy. Students have community organizations pose a problem that they work to solve over on trimester. 3 students chose this problem as their project: How might we gather & validate data about why Latino students are not choosing education programs?  


The mission of Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC) is to retain and increase the representation of Latinx education professionals in K-12. In Kansas City, the representation of teachers of color is not close to matching the percentage of students of color in our schools.  The LEC has asked GCHS students to help gather data about why students are not choosing to be educators, identify trends in this data, and make recommendations that can improve education programming so education careers are more desirable.

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Building a Thriving Community of Latinx Educators in a City with Fewer than 1% of Them

New Schools Venture Fund, Published July 26, 2021

In Kansas City, Missouri, like in much of the country, the teaching profession is not as diverse as it should be. For every 200 Latinx students in the Kansas City area, there is only 1 Latinx teacher. 

Edgar Palacios founded Latinx Education Collaborative on the belief that representation matters. Teachers of color can enhance academic outcomes for young people, especially students of color. Since 2018, with funding and support from NewSchools, his organization has been working to recruit Latinx prospects to credentialing programs in the local region, connect certified educators to open positions, and retain current teachers through culturally responsive professional development. 

We talked with Palacios to find out what made him take the leap into social entrepreneurship and what his organization is doing to build a thriving community of Latinx educators and influential system leaders. The interview has been edited for clarity and concision. 

How did you become aware of the lack of diversity in the teaching profession? 

In my previous role, I had the opportunity to travel and visit different schools. Once, I walked into a school with 99.9% Latinx students and not one teacher of color. It’s something I noticed time and time again that was starting to eat away at me.

Why were there no educators of color at these schools?

One principal told me that it was hard to find educators of color in a competitive environment. But I thought that the real problem was with what the principal said next: ‘We can teach anybody to teach, but they have to be a good culture fit.’ I thought, ‘If you can teach anybody to teach, then why aren’t you teaching more Black and Brown folks to become teachers?’ And when someone says ‘You have to be a good culture fit to teach,’ whose culture are we talking about?

What were Latinx teachers telling you?

I found it interesting that for many Latinx teachers, isolation is a main reason they don’t feel sustained in the work. I expected the reason to be their pay. But it’s because often they are the only Latinx teachers at their schools. They become the ‘Chief Latino Officer’ or the ‘Chief Translator.’ Everything that’s related to the Latino community they have to handle. I could really empathize with that feeling of isolation and not belonging based on my own journey growing up.

What experiences made you feel like you didn’t belong? 

Growing up in Miami, I never felt like an outsider. I never felt othered. Miami was a place where I could speak Spanish at school and nobody would bat an eye. That all changed when my family moved to Spokane, Washington. I remember my first day in sixth grade sitting next to a girl who told the teacher, “I don’t want to sit next to a dirty Mexican.” I was confused: I’m not Mexican. My parents are actually from Nicaragua. They came to this country as immigrants fleeing the civil war. I also took a shower that day. So there was no reason to call me any names. But at the time I didn’t understand these things and the teacher didn’t address it. It was one of many such incidents that happened to me along the way. 

Is this what sparked the idea for Latinx Education Collaborative?

What I’ve learned is that there are a lot of little Edgars in places like the Midwest where they don’t see themselves in their teachers. They don’t see themselves reflected in important leadership roles. This is not a problem that’s going to magically solve itself.

I had this idea that there had to be a space where Latinx teachers could come together, commiserate, share resources, and build community because that’s crucial for the work. 

How are you supporting Latinx teachers to remain in the field longer?  

Our retention work is a mixture of coaching and convening. We use Clifton Strengths as a tool to get educators to know their strengths and as a framework for how they can survive and thrive in schools. We’re also bringing people together around topics of interest and the needs they have and we try to fill those gaps with professional development tailored to them. We’re also focused on providing recruitment support to local schools. We help them build cultures that will attract and retain Latinx educators. 

You are focused on developing pathways to teaching as well. How are you doing that? 

We love talking to middle school students about becoming teachers one day. Teaching was never an option I considered when I was growing up. My options were to be an attorney, a doctor, or an engineer — someone who makes money. Now we are starting to change that narrative within our own community and we’re getting students excited about becoming teachers. We’re working to scale this program to the high schools to start building bridges between those transitional years and so we can keep reminding students that they should consider teaching as a career. 

What difference have you seen since you launched Latinx Education Collaborative? 

We’ve been able to reach people beyond Kansas City; educators from small towns across the Midwest who now engage with us on a regular basis because they’re missing resources in their neck of the woods. We’re thinking about how we can encourage them to start their own local initiatives. We also released a report that started a conversation about the fact that only 1% of teachers in the Kansas City metro area are Latinx. We’ll use this baseline data to measure our impact and refine our strategies moving forward. 

What support has been critical for your organization to become sustainable? 

Obviously, the funding is great, but what is even more valuable are the additional layers of support from NewSchools. I have received technical assistance. I have been able to build relationships with other venture leaders. And I have a relationship manager who provides coaching support. 

Did you ever see yourself as the leader of an organization doing this work? 

I remember thinking, ‘One day I will have my own organization, maybe one day that’s a possibility.’ But it seemed so far away from my reality early on in my career. A year later, the Teacher Diversity funding opportunity came up. When I saw it, I was like, ‘That one is for me. That’s my opportunity right there.’

Read the full article here >>

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Kansas City Lacks Latinx Teachers

For every 200 Latinx students in the Kansas City area there is only one Latinx educator and the Pioneers take Kansas City into the ranks of Major League Gaming.

Segment 1, beginning at 1:00: At schools in the Kansas City metro area, there is a huge diversity problem.

According to a report from the Latinx Education Collaborative in tandem with the Urban Education Research Center, one percent of K-12 teachers identify as Latinx in the Kansas City area. This means that for every 200 Latinx students, there is one Latinx educator. A second report takes a deeper look at improving the “teacher pipeline” that recruits and retains students to the profession.

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The Latinx Education Collaborative releases report on underrepresentation in education

June 25, 2021  Emily Standlee

In February 2021, the Latinx Education Collaborative released a report called “Landscape Analysis: Teachers of Color in Kansas City.” The group’s findings pointed to the fact that only 1% of teachers in the Kansas City metro area are Latinx.

“That translates to one Latinx teacher for every 200 Latinx students within our community,” reads a letter from President and CEO Edgar J. Palacios.

Together with Dr. Karin Chang and her team at the Urban Education Research Center, the LEC released a follow-up today called “Teacher Preparation Programs in Kansas and Missouri,” which used data and community forum engagement to answer questions relating to the “pipeline” of teachers of color in Kansas City.

According to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, in the United States, “students of color account for more than 45% of the P-12 population, but only 17.5% of teachers are people of color.”

The National Council on Teacher Quality, also referenced in the report, adds that while “gains in teacher diversity have been made in recent years, student diversity is growing at an even faster pace.”

In its quest to make sense of lopsided data—or, more specifically, why finding successful ways to “attract, admit, support, and graduate teachers of color from underrepresented groups” proves difficult—the LEC investigated the “teacher preparation program landscape,” including “enrollment and graduation trends, and demographic characteristics of our teacher candidates.”

View the full report and letter here.

The LEC states that in Missouri, “the percentage of Latinx students enrolled in teacher preparation programs (2.7%) was lower than the general Latinx population (4.3%) and lower than the K-12 population (6.4%).”

This trend was also present for Black/African American students, who made up only 4.6% of those enrolled in teacher prep programs. Meanwhile, “the general Black/African American population was over two times larger (11.6%) and the K-12 population was over three times larger (15.9).”

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Report reveals need for racial diversity in KC’s teachers

KC Hispanic News, Published March 26, 2021 – A new report shows that Latinx/Latino/Hispanic students in Kansas City metro-area schools are unlikely to see themselves reflected in the teacher leading their classroom.

Read entire KC Hispanic News article >>