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Celebs push for more minority teachers

February 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
There is a push under way to get more minority students in Los Angeles interested in becoming teachers. Some big names are getting behind the effort.

Many in the audience at the Edward Roybal Learning Center came to see Grammy-winner John Legend and world champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya. But judging from the questions they also wanted to hear about how to get teaching jobs.

The object of the meeting was to encourage minority students, especially Hispanics, to pursue teaching careers. In Los Angeles, more than 70 percent of students are Latino, yet only one-third of their teachers are Hispanic.

"The quality of the school is determined by the quality of those individuals running the school," said Legend. "The teachers, the principals, the people that occupy those positions are so critical to making sure kids can learn."

Natalie Bizzaro credits a teacher for inspiring her. She's now close to getting her degree after eight years of working her way through college.

"I'm not done, that's why I'm up here. I'm not done. I still have a long way to go, but the eventual goal that I'm going to attain when I become a teacher -- I think it's going to be the most rewarding thing that I'm going to have for the rest of my life," said Bizzaro.

Students are justifiably skeptical. They know there are thousands of layoffs in the works in Los Angeles. Why pursue teaching careers when more layoffs and cutbacks are expected?

"Teaching, with all these layoffs, how am I sure that I will get a job? I'm pretty sure I won't," said student Yamila Xoi.

But U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that in the coming years, 1 million teachers will be retiring.

"Despite the tough budget times, we are going to be hiring between 100,000 and 200,000 teachers every single year around the country," said Duncan. "So there's going to be huge opportunities. You guys graduate from high school and then graduate from college to come back and teach."

But there are no guarantees the jobs will be in the financially strapped Los Angeles Unified School District.