There's a shortage of bilingual teachers in many school districts. So Highline Public Schools decided to train its own.
Highline partnered with Western Washington University to identify bilingual professionals in the district, such as classroom aides and tutors, and then train them to become certified teachers.
“The reason why Highline Public Schools grew this program was to really raise local teachers who could eventually stay here for the long run,” said Jonathan Ruiz Velasco, who graduated from the program in June.
Ruiz Velasco was previously a bilingual tutor. Now he’s a sixth-grade teacher at Mount View Elementary in White Center where he instructs students in Spanish and English. Some of his colleagues are teaching in Vietnamese.
“Research has shown that bilingual students, something actually physiologically happens with the brain that allows the brain to become more flexible,” said Ruiz Velasco.
The partnership with WWU is already showing results. Ruiz Velasco is among a group of 16 bilingual graduates who are now teaching in the district. Another 14 are in training and are scheduled to graduate in 2020.
An $8,000 scholarship covers most of the tuition for the trainees, who continue working as paraprofessionals while taking evening and weekend classes in their districts.
Mount Vernon Schools also partnered with WWU to train more bilingual teachers.