Demand High For Bilingual Teachers

Monday, September 17th 2007, 7:20 am
By: News On 6

The demand for bilingual educators is up all across the United States. The same is true for Tulsa Public Schools. This week, a team from Tulsa Public Schools is leaving for Puerto Rico to try to bring some college graduates back to Tulsa. Six In The Morning reporter Carina Sonn reports Tulsa Public Schools needs more than 20 bilingual instructors, mainly to help students whose first language is Spanish.

The problem facing Tulsa Public Schools and other schools across the country is the lack of bilingual teachers coming out of college. At Disney Elementary School at 11702 East 25th Street in Tulsa, teachers are busy with a group of mostly Hispanic kindergarteners.

"I instruct one day in Spanish and then the next day I instruct in English and then vice versa," says Cassy Cuellar.

Cassy Cuellar is the only bilingual teacher at Disney Elementary School, even though half of the school’s 800 students are Hispanic. Over the last four years, the number of Hispanic students in the Tulsa Public School district has risen from 12% to 18%.

"Not only do all of my parents speak Spanish, I think I have a couple that speak English, but there's other classrooms and other teachers that are constantly needing assistance," says Cassy Cuellar.

Attracting bilingual teachers is continuing problem for Tulsa Public Schools and a problem school officials are desperately trying to fix. John Harris is Director of Human Resources for Tulsa Public Schools and he is hoping to find the solution to the district's problem in Puerto Rico. However, there is tough competition from schools on the east and west coasts, who already recruit in Puerto Rico.

"We think we can compete with those districts once we get known on campus," says John Harris.

Tulsa Public Schools has been recruiting at the University of Puerto Rico for the past two years. But their efforts have not yet paid off.

"None of the students have taken our offers due to competitive pressures with school districts up and down the eastern seaboard paying more money and the folks from Puerto Rico having relatives in those cities," says John Harris.

Harris remains optimistic. Tulsa Public School's team plans to make about 10 offers to graduates this month and John Harris hopes most will accept. Meanwhile, students in Tulsa Public Schools are quickly accepting both cultures.

"They're so eager to learn so when they learn new things, they're excited to show me what they know," says Cassy Cuellar.

This is the first year Tulsa Public Schools will try to court December graduates in Puerto Rico. Harris hopes it means less competition from other districts that typically go after May graduates.