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What is the add.a.lingua difference? A veteran immersion teacher shares her perspective

As director of instruction at add.a.lingua, I’ve always said that our resources, professional learning and on-the-spot care were just what I needed as a dual language immersion classroom teacher and instructional coach. It’s the absolute reason I decided to join the team.

If you were talk with any of our add.a.lingua partner program administrators or point people, they’d surely be able to share in detail how we work to support our partner programs for the long haul.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Heather Grisales, coordinator of our partner program in Grand Haven, Michigan. Heather’s story resonates loudly for a variety of reasons, perhaps most notably because she has extensive time invested in immersion education long before meeting team add.a.lingua.

We believe you’ll find Heather’s story and perspective inspiring. Given her range of experiences in dual language immersion programs, she has great insights into the value of partnership with add.a.lingua.

What’s your background? What did your professional experience entail before arriving at Grand Haven Christian to serve as their point person in the immersion program?

Born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan, I began taking Spanish classes in middle and high school and this continued into college, where I planned to study elementary education.  My true passion and love for the language and culture took flight during a 6 month study abroad experience in Querétaro, México while in college. In 2002 I graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Elementary Education and Spanish.  In 2008, I earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership. Over the past 16 years through my profession, I was blessed to be able to travel, live, and study language and culture even further in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Colombia.


Syllabic instruction is where it’s at in Maestra Grisales’ K-1 Spanish immersion class.

Prior to working at Grand Haven Christian School as a K/1 early total one-way program teacher, I spent 15 years as a public school educator in an urban district in Michigan.  9 of those years I taught Kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grades in a 50/50 dual language immersion program. 6 of those years, I spent as an elementary school principal, 4 of which were in a 50/50 dual language program.  I am married to a native-born Colombian man, Carlos, and we have two daughters together. We are raising them in a Spanish language environment at home, while learning English on the side with family and friends.

In your previous immersion program, what were some things that you were looking for that seemed to be a struggle to find? Was there anything missing?

In my previous experience both in the role as a teacher and principal of an immersion program some of the greatest resources and supports that were missing were the lack of specific and quality professional development designed for immersion teachers, quality and relevant resources for teaching students in the program, a fully and purposefully aligned scope and sequence by grade for all aspects of literacy including grammar, word study, culture, vocabulary, writing, and reading materials.    

What first struck you as an experienced teacher/leader about the way add.a.lingua partnership and resources come together to support high quality immersion programming?


Maestra Grisales works with her Spanish immersion students on a high frequency word noticing activity.

As a seasoned teacher, I quickly realized that add.a.lingua has all of the resources I need to do my job well.  All of the bases are covered, so to speak. The add.a.lingua team thought about every single aspect of literacy and what immersion students need to succeed.  The plethora of resources are endless and I didn’t even have the time in the week to fully use all of them as I desired. I also loved that at any point in time if I needed someone to talk to and get wisdom and ideas, I could set up an office hour and actually speak with someone who knows exactly or can relate to what I am experiencing.  

What student results stood out to you as a result of add.a.lingua supports?

The most significant student results I saw was the students’ willingness to speak in Spanish so quickly within the first 6 weeks of school at the Kindergarten level.  This is thanks to the intentional LIOPT (Language of Instruction Only Policy and Timeline) and the amazing activities such as circumlocution and training videos to help you along the way.  Students were also successfully reading with high levels of comprehension and accuracy by mid to end of the first year in the program thanks to the guided reading supports and resources add.a.lingua provides.  

Anything else you wish to share?


Circumlocution is an EARLY skill our partner programs develop.

I have been in immersion education my entire career and have never felt the support that I am given through add.a.lingua.  add.a.lingua is EXACTLY what all immersion programs need! The careful thought and planning that go into the add.a.lingua Spanish frameworks by grade level is priceless as it lays everything out for you. The hefty work in the pre-planning is all done for you!

Equally important to know, it is not scripted curriculum, but rather a smorgasbord of wonderful tools that gives teachers the freedom to use their own experiences and creativity as they plan their week of teaching.  add.a.lingua provides teachers with the tools they need so that they can focus on the true goal: to create bilingual, multicultural, high-achieving, creative thinkers for our world!

Heather pretty much summed it up for us, folks.

We join programs on the journey.

And we stick together through resources, professional learning and ongoing, on-call, human-to-human support.

Every. Step. Of the way.

THAT’S the add.a.lingua difference!

If you’d like to learn more about how add.a.lingua works with new and existing immersion programs, just fill out the form below.


Filed under: educators, Spanish Immersion

About the Author

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Stephanie Irizarry holds undergraduate ​teacher certification in Spanish and Elementary Education, an M.Ed in Literacy Studies with emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL),​ as well as an additional M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Certification in Dual Language and Immersion Education from the University of Minnesota. Her broad teaching experiences in dual language immersion programs and​ in​ English learner contexts provide her with deep insight into the needs of new and existing dual language immersion programs.​ Co-author of the publication Lending Student Voice to Latino ELL Migrant Children's Perspectives on Learning (2013), she knows that students increasingly take ownership of their education when their voices are honored and expectations are held high. Stephanie is the proud mom of two boys and is thrilled that they'll know the joy of learning in high quality dual language immersion environments as they grow. She enjoys spending time with her husband and children, travel, latin dancing, and reading in Spanish.

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