SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — A new initiative in the Springfield School District hopes to increase diversity in the district’s teaching staff.

Student ethnic demographics are changing nationwide, and Springfield is no different. The district is taking part in a program to hire teachers that reflect these trends.

District officials said that a third of its students are minorities, while the racial makeup of educators is overwhelmingly white.

The district is taking part in Teach Oregon, a program to attract more diverse teachers.

Assistant superintendent Matt Coleman said he hopes diversity in the classroom will benefit the community and students.

“We talk a lot in education about how do we personalize.  Part of personalization is having the students’ culture and background reflected not only in the curriculum but in who is delivering it,” said Coleman.

Springfield schools will partner with area universities, allowing college education students the chance to get hands-on experience.

The district plans to pay for costs associated with obtaining a degree and license. The total price tag for the first five years of the program is estimated to be one point three million dollars.

“As we look to employ these teachers in the first several years of their teaching, part of their salary goes to pay back the tuition that was paid forward,” said Coleman

Yareli Montano grew up in Oregon, never having a minority role model. She often felt out of place in school.

“You feel disconnected at times.  I know I did, and I felt like ‘oh you don’t know where I come from, you don’t know what I’m going through, you don’t know my struggles’,” Montano said.

Since working at Hamlin Middle School, her aspirations have changed. Now, she wants to be a teacher, and hopes Teach Oregon can help her realize her dream.

“I feel like it’s a huge opportunity for both teachers and students. Even if you’re not a student of color you get to have interaction with a teacher who is different than you,” said Yareli.

The Springfield District hopes to have fifty candidates within the first three years of the Teach Oregon program, half of whom would be minorities.

Full on-line article with video.