New results published in the Educational Administration Quarterly show Latinx educational leaders have a unique ability to understand social justice leadership, as well as support current and aspiring leaders of color who seek to promote equity in their own work.

Makes sense, since many have lived experience through childhoods and educational histories that are fraught with inequity.

The research is being led by Washington State University Vancouver’s Katherine Rodela, an assistant professor in the College of Education.

As part of her research, Rodela explored the stories of four Latinx school administrators across three districts in the Pacific Northwest.

“This article’s framework is about the strengths people of color bring to their lives and their leadership and teachings,” she said.

The research started after Latinx leaders and teachers came to her to share their experiences. They explained how they often were the only people of color in their district. Many times, they were called to be an interpreter or to take on other roles. Being alone like this can be hard, Rodela said.

The experiences these Latinx leaders and teachers faced growing up shaped how they make their leadership decisions. Being able to take these unique struggles and turn them into strengths that work to improve the environments of their students is what Rodela describes as community cultural wealth.

“I hope Latinx educators see the article and it resonates with them,” she said. “I hope they can see how they have community cultural wealth within their teaching.”

Issues of racism in the schools, along with poverty, and financial hardships growing up, were all experiences her participants faced. Each of her participants felt these issues were “normal” for them. They often see themselves in their students, Rodela said.

For those who are not people of color, she hopes they will reflect on her research and take note of what they can do differently, Rodela said.

Each participant sees their differences as strengths in serving the families and students in their community. Racial, gender, and language identities play a part in the way they work towards equity in particular spaces, Rodela’s research states.

Rodela plans on continuing her research with people of color and bringing awareness to their experiences.

“My goal is to diversify the educator pipeline and build a strong supportive network,” Rodela said. “This project is about continuing to build a supportive community for people of color.”