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Educators Jill Biden, Erica Castro Call On Latinos To Teach

Image: Monolingual Hispanic Students Learn English

TYLER,TX - SEPTEMBER 11: Monolingual Hispanic students raise their hands to answer a question during a class taught in Spanish at Birdwell Elementary School September 11, 2003 in Tyler, Texas. The first grade students spend half their school day learning reading, writing, and arithmetic in Spanish and the other half learning them in English. Birdwell, a school of 600 students, 60 percent of them Hispanic with a significant portion of them Spanish speakers, requires a dual-language curriculum for itOs kindergarten and first graders. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images) Mario Villafuerte / Getty Images

While the nation's student population is becoming increasingly Latino, its teaching workforce has been lagging far behind.

According to the Department of Education, about 8 percent of the nation's teachers are Latino, while one in four of the nation's public elementary and secondary school students are Latino.

Hoping to draw more Latinos into teaching and to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has launched #LatinosTeach digital campaign highlighting Hispanic educators and encouraging more Latinos to go into teaching.

To help get out the word, the campaign made use of a couple of its high-profile educators, Jill Biden and Erica Castro, in a video featuring the two who also are the spouses of Vice President Joe Biden and Housing Secretary Julián Castro.

"Teachers can inspire and impact students no matter their background," Biden says in the video.

Biden has been an educator for 30 years and holds a doctorate in education. She has taught English at a community college, public high school and psychiatric hospital for adolescents.

Castro has taught math to elementary students for 12 years and also has taught and mentored university level teachers in training.

"As our nation Hispanic student population grows, there is an increasing need for more teachers who are Hispanic, for more teachers who understand Hispanic culture and communities," Castro says in the video.

The Department of Education reported that several states with the largest Hispanic student populations have the largest Hispanic student-teacher gap.

Some of the challenges of attracting Latinos to the profession include lower high school graduation rates, the cost of higher education or other barriers to it; perceptions of teaching as a low status job; low pay for teachers and generally lower salaries for teachers at high schools serving the highest percentages of African American and Hispanic students.

Although school districts have undertaken recruitment campaigns that have increased Latino teachers, their numbers are not rising at a rate commensurate with the Latino student population. Because of that difference, the Latino student-teacher gap is expected to persist for a while.

The #LatinosTeach campaign asks the public to nominate Latino educators who will be featured by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence on its site. People wanting to nominate educators can send the educator's name and contact information and details about them to WHIEEH@ed.gov.

Also the public is asked to recognize Latino teachers they know through social media using the hashtag #LatinosTeach.

"We are grateful for the leadership and dedication of the many talented Hispanic teachers in our nation’s schools; and through the #LatinosTeach campaign, we hope to inspire even more Latinos to consider the teaching profession as a way to give back to their communities," said Alejandra Ceja, the initiative's executive director.