DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave after participating in a walk-out last week. This comes as officials at North High School decided not to renew the popular teacher’s contract, which has students outraged.

Tim Hernández is a popular Latino teacher at North High and has been for nearly two years. He tells FOX31 he has a special connection to the neighborhood because he grew up there and still lives there now. He goes on to say that for him, being an educator isn’t a job, but it’s a duty.

“I grew up two blocks from where I teach. I still live two blocks from where I teach. I’m a Latino teacher in the most gentrified Latino neighborhood in the country,” Hernández said.

Students protest on news that teacher won’t be back

Latino himself and representing a school where more than half of students are Latino, Hernández saidthe staff doesn’t reflect that, and he brings a familiar culture to students while teaching Ethic Studies and English. However, Hernández’s career at North High came to a screeching halt last week.

Hernández said he was brought on at North High as a traditional teacher, but shortly after he was told by school officials that the school couldn’t afford to keep him in the role. He said he was asked to be an associate teacher and although he didn’t want to, he agreed because most teachers eventually gain the role of a traditional teacher, and he didn’t want to leave his students.

Hernández said this winter he applied for a new position but was recently told by school leaders that he did not get the job and they would not be renewing his contract. That means Hernández will not be teaching at North High this upcoming school year.

The decision sparked outrage. Last Wednesday, students held a sit-in at North High, and then on Friday, hundreds walked out of the school joining parents and community members, marching along Speer Boulevard. The crowd held signs and chanted, hoping their activism will help their beloved teacher return next school year.

Hernández said it was a split-second decision to join his students in the walk-out and it was not planned.

“I could hear those students yelling my name from inside of a school building, hundreds of them, marching around, left school. I walked out because I value my students’ voices and I’m willing to listen even if the district is not.”

Denver Public Schools responds

Denver Public Schools said they can’t comment on personnel matters but did confirm Hernández is now on paid administrative leave. Hernández said he was told he didn’t interview competitively enough for the new position, but he has other thoughts.

“I was intentionally denied a position at the school for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons,” Hernández said. “I’ve had a long history of speaking out, and I think my school has labeled me disruptive because they don’t appreciate the ways I speak out.”

Hernández said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming and he wants one thing: to teach at North High. With a few weeks left in the school year, he was a message for his students: “I miss y’all, man, and I’m sorry for the situation that we’re in.”

FOX31 reached out to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. The union said they fully support students and Mr. Hernández. Hernández said he will keep fighting for his job and will be speaking at Thursday’s school board meeting.