Bilingual Teachers in Early Head Start/Head Start

Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, Nonie K. Lesaux


While recruitment and employment goals of Early Head Start/Head Start (EHS/HS) programs with respect to bilingual staff are clearly outlined in the program policies, nationally, little is known about their implementation on the ground, especially in programs that serve large numbers of Latino children. The present study targeted an urban EHS/HS program that serves a large number of Spanish-speaking dual language learning families. An interview with the program’s Human Resources Director was conducted to gain insight into the program’s recruitment and retention strategies for Latino/a staff. Additionally, via the administration of a survey to lead teachers (n = 109), we sought to gain concrete insight into teachers’ language and ethnicity characteristics and to learn whether and, if so, for which purposes teachers reported using Spanish in their classrooms. Our results suggest that the two-pronged recruitment and retention strategy employed by the program likely related to the high rates of EHS/HS teachers in the program who identified themselves as Latinas and who reported using Spanish in the classroom. Such efforts appear to be a step in the right direction given the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in today’s EHS/HS classrooms.

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