ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Abilene Independent School District has a diverse student body, but when it comes to the staff, those demographics don’t line up with the student body. Now, the district is working to bridge the ethnicity gap between students and teachers.

Associate Superintendent for Leadership and Student Services, Dr. Gustavo Villanueva said diversity is important for any organization. He remembers growing up, the first teacher he had that looked like him was his English second language teacher who was Latina. He added that it’s important for students to see themselves in their teachers.

“Diversity makes us stronger, makes everyone in the organization stronger and of course, as a student, to have someone that looks like you certainly makes you realize that you can achieve things that you might not think otherwise,” added Villanueva.

This year, nearly half of the student population is Hispanic, but less than fifteen percent of school staff is. This number has increased over the last decade. The district shared that it’s a reflection of current racial demographic rates in Texas.

Courtesy of AISD

Jordan Ziemer, Director of Communications for AISD, said the district is working to bring diverse teachers to Abilene.

“Having skilled individuals from a variety of backgrounds helps us respond to a broader range of student learning needs, growth needs, and concerns,” Ziemer explained.

One way the school is doing this is by offering incentives to make accepting a job offer from AISD more appealing.

“Whether that’s providing no to low-cost health insurance options, whether that’s recruiting with virtual hiring fairs that might help those that have transportation concerns, whether it’s providing alternative certification programs for individuals who may be working in an aide capacity,” shared Ziemer.

But Ziemer shared that with the teachers they do have, the district offers the right training and resources to ensure any teacher of any background is prepared to best serve their students, but there is still a long way to go.

“Are we where we want to be as an organization? No, we want to be transparent with our community and we want them to know that this matters to us,” added Ziemer.