The dearth of bilingual teachers is especially counterintuitive in Texas, where Gauna is a professor and where she conducted a qualitative research study on what she calls the “The Leaking Spanish Bilingual Education Teacher Pipeline.” In the paper, Gauna and her fellow researchers identified major life experiences that bilingual Latino teachers said made their paths to becoming educators all the more difficult. Gauna is an associate professor of bilingual/ESL and multicultural education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake’s College of Education.

“A typical situation is that you are speaking the Spanish language at home, and then English in the school setting, and that's something that sometimes is seen as the de facto,” Gauna says. “[It’s] unfortunate because then the Spanish language at home doesn't get nurture or doesn't get developed, and by the time that the candidates wants to reclaim that language — and show proficiency in that language when the state requires them to — they have been robbed, really, of opportunities to keep developing that language.”

The U.S. has nearly 41.8 million Spanish speakers, giving it the fifth-largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, according to data from Spain’s Instituto Cervantes. In Texas, where roughly 40 percent of residents are Hispanic, nearly 1 million students in public schools are English learners who speak Spanish at home.

The Lone Star State’s bilingual students could be considered its pool of future bilingual teachers, according to the research paper. So why is there a shortage of these educators? Through interviews with three bilingual teachers-in-training, Gauna found a series of potential roadblocks that start much earlier in life than when students declare a major in college.

One “leak” in the pipeline of bilingual students potentially becoming bilingual teachers starts with how they are treated during grade school, according to the paper.

Interviewee “Esmeralda” started third grade in the U.S. after moving from Mexico with her family, but she wasn’t placed in a program for English learners. She recalls the first American teacher she had thought Esmeralda was faking not knowing English.

“When she called on me and I would answer her in Spanish, she would get so mad, she would stop everything and she would just scream at me . . . Say it in English!” Esmeralda told researchers. “I don’t know how to say it in English [I thought]. Eventually she just stopped calling on me.”

Interviewee “Oscar” had the opposite problem. Despite growing up with Spanish-speaking parents, Oscar eventually lost proficiency in the language and decided to take Spanish classes during high school.

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