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Hartford Public Schools plan to open teaching applications to countries beyond Caribbean

Marcos Valentin Ortiz started his first year teaching at Weaver HS.
Dave Wurtzel
Connecticut Public
Weaver High School history teacher Marcos Gabriel Valentin-Ortiz was recruited from Puerto Rico in the 2023 school year through Hartford's Paso a Paso program, which aims to attract bilingual teachers.

Hartford Public Schools will continue and potentially expand an effort to recruit more Spanish-speaking teachers in the 2023-24 school year. That effort, known as Paso a Paso, hopes to improve instruction across subject areas and expand Hispanic American representation.

Daisy Torres, director of services for multilingual learners at the Hartford Public Schools, said the district had two information sessions in February and is looking to fill 10 vacancies in the coming school year. Last school year, Hartford Public Schools recruited roughly 14 teachers from Puerto Rico through the Paso a Paso program.

This year, Torres said the district expanded the multicultural initiative to include the Caribbean Connection Program, specifically looking to recruit teachers from various islands and possibly other Spanish-speaking countries.

“We have a number of students who come to us from West Indian culture,” Torres said. “Part of the Caribbean connections is also recruiting teachers from islands such as Jamaica; we have some students who speak patois, for example. So culturally, it makes sense to also bring in teachers who understand the language and cultures from the islands that our students come from, in our families as well.”

According to Torres, almost 12% of Hartford teachers and 56% of the district’s students identify as Latin American or Hispanic. And 21% of Hartford Public Schools students identify as multilingual learners, meaning they speak a language other than English at home.

“We know the importance of putting teachers in front of our students who look like them, and also just sharing the culture, identity, language with our teachers and having that experience for all of our students,” added Torres.

Torres also previewed the beginning stages of a new project she said the district is working on to bring in teachers from foreign countries through an International Teacher Permit under J-1 visas. Torres said that some requirements would include teaching experience and certification from their original countries.

“I talked to a candidate from Peru through a Zoom call. I’m very passionate about recruiting and retention, particularly for teachers of color,” Torres said. “Teachers are trying to figure out how to work in the States on a J-1 visa, and so that program is designed to support those international teachers who would like to come in and teach in Hartford public schools.”

Interested applicants must apply by March 1.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.