Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Minority schoolteachers and administrators, appearing at a Long Island education forum focused on diversity, described embarrassing racial assumptions they had encountered in the workplace, as well as more positive experiences with colleagues and students.
Speaker after speaker at Friday's four-hour conference talked of the frustrations of working in public schools where they are greatly outnumbered by white co-workers and often are treated differently in terms of expectations and work assignments. The personal recollections frequently were similar, whether speakers were of Asian, black or Latino race or ethnicity.
The forum, which attracted an audience of nearly 200 educators and others to Hofstra University, was aimed at encouraging school districts to recruit and employ more staffers of color. Many schools could find this an uphill task, judging from Friday's testimony.
The conference's organizers opened the session by noting that many speakers had worked for multiple school systems and were not necessarily referring to their current places of employment.
Dafny J. Irizarry Ortiz, a 25-year classroom veteran who teaches English as a New Language, said her fluency in Spanish was not always appreciated by fellow teachers.
"I heard from other colleagues that the reason I got hired is that I speak Spanish, not because I'm an effective teacher," said Irizarry Ortiz, who currently works in Central Islip and serves as president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association.
Lillian Hsiao, offering a flip-side experience, said she encountered colleagues who expressed amazement at her grasp of English.