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Nuestra Comunidad hispana

When we are out as a family and meet other people the question usually comes up, “Where do your kids go to school?” That question is easily answered – it’s the next part that always gets the, “OOHHH.” Spanish Immersion. The reactions are a mixed bag. Most are positive. It wasn’t a quick choice for us; neither my husband nor I speak Spanish. We do not have Spanish speakers in our extended family. Would this work?

We went to many information meetings on the topic before our school immersion program was up and running. Knowing our daughter was young, we had a few years to watch the program in action before enrolling our oldest daughter. Now all three of our kids are enrolled in Spanish immersion. It works.

The start of school seems to create a heightened level of anxiety in our house. This year, Gina was starting middle school. The middle school is in a separate wing of the school, but is still a part of the K – 8 education plan, which helps with the transition. Additionally, there are two new 6th grade teachers and they are both Spanish immersion teachers. We knew this was coming. Her class is large, and with more Spanish immersion students comes a shuffling of teachers to different positions to create room for Spanish speaking teachers. Gina had been looking forward to middle school this year but with these changes came uncertainty. Now that we are a few months in, I can safely say that she is doing fantastic and our “new” Spanish immersion teachers are awesome. One is a native Spanish speaker and one has had Spanish as a part of her life for most of her life.

Our two oldest children, Gina and Isaac, have both expressed how the native Spanish speakers speak more quickly than their teachers who are not native Spanish speakers. I find that so intriguing that they notice that! As a native English speaker, it all is fast and furious to me! I’m also so impressed with some of the teachers we have had who have limited English speaking skills. There seems to be an assumption that they know less than us, are uneducated, and not willing to learn English. It is my personal experience that is the furthest thing from the truth. I continue to be more and more impressed with these native Spanish speaking teachers who are communicating with native English speaking parents. Can you imagine? First, there’s  a new class of students and parents and then on top of it they are expected to lay out the year for the parents in a way we can understand – field trips, hot lunch, as well as educational standards and curriculum. I am so thankful for these teachers.

They have taught my children about persevering in a culture and language that is not, initially, first nature to them.

The native-speaking Spanish immersion teachers have taught my children about their culture in ways their native English counterparts cannot. They teach from firsthand experience – not from a text book or the internet. They have taught my children about persevering in a culture and language that is not, initially, first nature to them. For example, last year we went to a reception called Nuestra Comunidad Hispaña. It honored a few Spanish people who have immigrated here from various countries and highlighted their life stories. Isaac’s 3rd grade teacher was featured. We were able to read gonzalez-and-vanderzwaagabout and talk to her about her experience. It wasn’t an easy conversation as she was still finding her English words but the experience was overwhelmingly powerful.

We also met her sponsors from her church as well as her husband and children. To be able to put a story and personal face with the woman who teaches my child was invaluable. I was also so impressed with the vulnerability it took for her to share her story. What an awesome opportunity for our family to look outside of our small world – all because the opportunity came through Isaac’s Spanish Immersion experience in 3rd grade. I am so thankful for these teachers, for the ways they teach my children about language and culture and for all that my children learn because they are part of a Spanish immersion school experience.

Filed under: Spanish Immersion

About the Author

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Kristi Van Dyk is an immersion parent who is passionate about offering dual language immersion as an educational option to all schools and districts. The opportunity to raise bi-lingual children, despite her family’s lack of second language proficiency has expanded the dreams she and her husband have for the future of their children. It is this passion for real life change that Kristi brings to all of our new partner schools. Kristi’s educational training began at Hope College in education in the areas of English and Mathematics for elementary. Kristi pursued additional training in brain based curriculum development through the Midwest Brain and Learning Institute as well as an M.A. in educational administration from Western Michigan University. You can find Kristi connecting with new potential partners, sharing experience with new parents and assisting with training of new teachers.

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