Inside Jackson Elementary School, Mrs. Elizabeth Claudio worked with students on math, Thursday afternoon.
“What do I need to do?” She asked. “You need to borrow from the seven,” a student replied.
And during their borrowing lesson, if there is a language barrier, she's able to help in Spanish.
“For me it’s just such a satisfaction,” Claudio said.
According to Mary Melon with the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), 54 percent of students in the district are Hispanic, 30 percent of whom are speaking a language other than English with their families at home.
Melon said the need for bilingual teachers is tremendous.
Claudio is currently a paraprofessional. But because of the foundation's pipeline program, she's also a junior at UCO.
“They are able to maintain their full-time job with Oklahoma City Public Schools,” Melon explained. “We are covering all the costs associated with their college. And so they’re able to become certified teachers with no debt at all.”
“If Mary was not our savior, I would’ve never continued my education,” Claudio told News 9. “Because it’s just hard.”
It's a great gift for the future teachers and for the students, who will have a better chance at success.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Claudio said.
The foundation is also encouraging bilingual students with an interest in teaching to apply to become paraprofessionals after high school and then apply to their program. It also provides free Spanish lessons to English-speaking teachers and staff in the district.