NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is partnering with the Dominican Republic to hire bilingual teachers in the city's public schools.
Schools Chancellor David Banks announced the new effort, facilitated in partnership with the Consulate General of the Dominican Republic in New York City and the Association of Dominican-American Supervisors and Administrators (ADASA), on Thursday.
It involves recruiting bilingual educators from the Dominican Republic for a cultural exchange program, starting with the hiring of 25 educators this school year.
Math teacher Joel Perez is one of those educators participating, and it is his first time in America.
"I'm going to represent Dominican Republic, and that's something I feel really grateful for," he said. "I'm going to let them see it's not impossible, that they can achieve all their goals."
While it's been his dream to come to the U.S., his visit is the key to young learners also looking to achieve the American dream.
"Every student must have the support they need to succeed academically, physically, emotionally, and socially," Banks said. "The educators from the Dominican Republic will improve our ability to serve the needs of our growing Spanish-speaking student population and increase the diversity and cultural competency of our workforce. We are thrilled to have the support of the Consulate General of the Dominican Republic and ADASA in continuing to grow our Spanish-speaking educator workforce and better reflect the diversity of our city in our workforce."
Emmanual Polanco is with ADASA and is the principal of MS 80 in the Bronx, and he's seen how the shortage of bilingual teachers has hit students especially hard during the pandemic.
"Imagine now those students going home, not having the technology, not having the access, not being able to understand," he said.
The partnership aims to place an additional 25 educators, for a total of 50, by the start of the 2023-2024 school year.
These educators will increase the number of Spanish-speaking bilingual teachers supporting schools with large Spanish-speaking populations, improve connections with the city's students and families who have immigrated from the Dominican Republic, and increase the diversity of the city's educators.
The 25 bilingual educators from the Dominican Republic are being deployed as teachers in schools throughout the city with interest and needs for additional teaching support.
The teachers will teach students across content areas and grade-levels.
"The launching of the program marks a historic moment for the Spanish speaking community, which will increase opportunities to embrace our cultures, facilitating a global exchange," Consul General of the Dominican Republic in New York City Eligio Jaquez said.
The cultural exchange program will serve the city's growing Spanish-speaking and English-language learner student populations.
In the 2021/22 school year, 22.3% of students spoke Spanish as their home language, and 13.9% of all students were learning English as a second language.
Experts say educators who speak a student's home language are critical assets in supporting students as they learn English and in supporting schools in building connections with students, families and their community.
Officials say increasing the representation of educators from the Dominican Republic also strengthens the Department of Education's efforts to better reflect the diversity of its students in our educator workforce.
RELATED | Eyewitness News participates in Hispanic Television Summit roundtable
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News