In seven states, the need for bilingual education teachers is especially dire. Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin have reported bilingual teacher shortages during the 2023-24 academic year, according to federal data. Another 18 states and the District of Columbia have been struggling to find enough people who teach English as a second language.

Experts say the dearth of bilingual education teachers in the U.S. stems from a lack of role models, inaccessible and unaffordable higher ed teacher training programs and weak academic language skills among would-be educators. Here’s how leaders at the California Center on Teaching Careers are taking steps to overcome those hurdles — measures that might work in other states, too.

While California and Texas have the most English learners in public schools — perhaps unsurprising given their proximity to Mexico — the states experiencing the most growth among school-age English learners are mainly outside the Southwest. From 2000 to 2020, Delaware experienced the highest increase in its percentage of English learners, followed by Maryland and Virginia.

“For me as an EL learner, having someone in the classroom that not only looks like you, but that you can relate to and understands some of the barriers that you're going through, certainly impacted me and and encouraged me to continue with my education,” Lopez says of his own experience growing up in California as an English learner, “because I did have not only a teacher, but an adviser, someone that could give me guidance, [someone] that I could easily approach.”

For bilingual Californians who are a product of the “English only” school era, the bilingual education career path is a chance to reframe their dual language abilities as an advantage, Cervantes-González says.

“We do have many bilingual students who just don’t envision themselves being a bilingual teacher, and that’s where bilingual education has an opportunity to expand on the knowledge and assets that students have,” Cervantes-González says, “so that they see it as an opportunity and not a barrier to apply their language in a school setting.”

Read the full article about bilingual teachers by Nadia Tamez-Robledo at EdSurge.