The Denver Public School District has partnered with Teach for America to become the first in the country to actively seek qualified teachers who are also undocumented immigrants to work in their schools.
DPS currently has two undocumented teachers, who came to America when they were younger than 16 years old, and they hope to hire 10 more teachers like them in the next semester.
These undocumented immigrants were granted temporary legal presence and work authorization, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, because they were under age 16 and had no criminal record.
"I came to the United States when I was four years old," Fuentes Mena told KUSA.
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Mena was hired to teacher at the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford Elementary School in August.
“Bringing in more teachers with deferred action status speaks to the importance of equity and opportunity at Teach For America and Denver Public Schools,” Mena said Thursday. “I now have the opportunity to impact my students and show them that they too can achieve at the highest levels.”
The DPS superintendent says schools have been enriched by teachers with DACA status.
"These young men and women bring extraordinary talent to our classroom," said Superintendent Tom Boasberg. "We have many, many kids whose stories are like Alejandro's."
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An estimated 10 to 20 percent of DPS students are undocumented and one-third are English-language learners, ThinkProgress reported.
"When they see the accomplishments of a young man like Alejandro and he's their teacher with such ability and enthusiasm, I think he brings tremendous hope," Boasberg added.
In order to qualify to teach in the district, an undocumented immigrant must have a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5, DPS said in a release Thursday.
Teach For America Corps members will be given an alternate teaching license from the Colorado Department of Education during the first school year. Later they will be eligible to get a traditional teaching license through a program at the University of Colorado Denver.