Why Latinx NBCTs Matter, Today, This month, and Always

October 4, 2019

Hip-hop artist and educator, Olmeca, wrote a poem called, “They Migrate, We Graduate.” Those four words accurately captured so many of our experiences as Latinx, bicultural-bilingual-binational students and now, just as importantly, as teachers. Our families, just like our students’ families, prioritized our future possibilities and opportunities over many times, their own comfort. When I see my students, I see myself. When I see their families, I see my family.

Representation matters. Latinx students make up approximately 30% of our national student population and in many areas across the country, they make up greater than 50% of the population. The Latinx population at my school in Las Vegas is 84%. How many of their teachers are also Latinx? I see more Latinx teachers every school year but I am still left to wonder if we are doing enough to keep up with this specific student population that needs accomplished Latinx educators. Educators who nourish Latinx identities, educators who grow our potential, and embrace the resiliency within our community. Research shows that teachers of color help close achievement gaps for students of color and that we are highly rated by students of all races.

Our shared experiences with the Latinx community goes beyond a normal student-teacher bond as we have faced the same invisible tax, being people of color, and sometimes having had similar language barriers. Many of us go the extra mile to ensure our students feel seen and valued; we translate, create welcoming environments in our schools, provide Know Your Rights classes, tutor after hours, run programming to close representation gaps in STEAM and AP courses, and the list goes on. We do extra because we know the value of showing up for our students because many of us did not have educational spaces that celebrated our communities.

The Latinx community has a constant fight to be treated with respect, dignity, and be thought of as an asset. Sadly, xenophobia, racism, and systemic barriers are not left outside our school doors. Many Latinx educators I know understand this and come prepared each day with additional energy to counter the visible and invisible barriers our communities constantly challenge.

I’m grateful to be able to celebrate all the Latinx educators who are the bridge for our community. You teach every day knowing your experiences of migration, language access issues, and discrimination closely mirror your students. This our strength! We see ourselves! We see our reasons for migrating, and know that we all will graduate!

The collective nature of so many Latinx people is the backbone of our resilience, creativity, motivation, and action. This Hispanic Heritage Month, and every month, let’s celebrate all the educators that channel this energy. Let’s celebrate all educators that nurture and support the preservation of Latinx students’ and families’ identities. This means we honor our languages, our culture with its many layers and variations, our collectiveness, and our strengths.

After all, nurturing our Latinx students’ identities is what they need most. We need to hold our identities safe and sound so that as we grow as independent learners, we do so connected to our families and roots; connected to the collectiveness of the Latinx community.

I celebrate all the Latinx NBCTs in this country, you understand that our liberation is not tied to assimilation, it’s tied to the celebration of who we are and what we are capable of becoming.

All NBCTs are grounded in our common foundation: the Body of Knowledge. The 5 Core Propositions remind educators that being committed to our students and their learning means having genuine and responsive relationships with our students and their families. A healthy educator-student relationship is always centered on preserving and adding identities, not reducing or forgetting identities. We are also committed to being participatory and action-oriented members of our learning communities; this means always including families, neighborhoods, and communities as integral parts of our learning as they hold vital knowledge. We celebrate all NBCTs who see the possibilities of collaborative relationships with these families, neighborhoods, and communities because we know schools are not vacuums within communities, they are at the center of the community.

Becoming an NBCT was the most pivotal commitment I have made in my career as an educator. It paved paths of collaboration with other NBCTs who encourage me every day to lean into opportunities to advocate that all students deserve accomplished teachers, and also, that all teachers deserve the opportunity to become accomplished. Even more so, that all students deserve access to accomplished teachers that look like them and respect them, and that all teachers of color deserve the support to become accomplished as they thrive and lead in a variety of educational spaces.

Becoming an NBCT meant that I prioritized reflection of my practice. Through my reflection, I realized that my ability to teach emerging bilinguals with learning disabilities to become strong readers is just as vital as my ability to build safe and collaborative partnerships with parents. I think back to a difficult conversation with a family considering how to respond to the sudden changes to their Temporary Protection Status and how it would impact their ability to work or for their child to walk to school feeling safe. Although the support I could offer at that moment was minor–empathy and reassurance that our school would protect the child’s right to Free and Appropriate Public Education–the family later told me that they felt a weight lifted knowing their child’s teacher was on their side. Our advocacy goes beyond our classroom walls.

In that spirit, I celebrate all the young students of color who will become educators and in order to better serve their community, who will hopefully one day choose to begin the process to become Board-certified teachers. I celebrate the elevation of our profession as we embrace future teachers of color as a vital part of the solution inequitable education for all.

Join me this month, and every month, in celebrating all the brave Latinx students, families, and educators as we know the exceptional contributions, extended day in and day out to all aspects of our American lives. Let’s celebrate the love and effort Latinx families contribute to supporting their children’s’ education. After all, they migrate, we graduate! They migrate, we become NBCTs!

L. Julianna Urtubey, NBCT

L. Juliana Urtubey is a National Board Fellow. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Bilingual General and Special Elementary Education and is a National Board Certified Teacher (ECYA Exceptional Needs Specialist, 2018). She has taught in Arizona and Nevada for the past nine years. Currently, she teaches resources at Crestwood Elementary in Downtown Las Vegas where she is warmly known as “Ms. Earth” due to her work in beautifying the school with gardens and murals. Ms. Urtubey is an instructor at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, a National Council for Learning Disabilities UNDERSTOOD Teacher Fellow, a Teach Plus Fellow, a member of the NvDE Superintendent Teacher Advisory Committee, and a Professional Learning Facilitator with the Nevada National Board Professional Learning Institute. She is a Roger’s Foundation Heart of Education Winner (2018) and the recent recipient of the CPLC Esperanza Latina Teaching Award (NV).