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add.a.lingua immersion means whole school impact: reflections from Redlands Christian Lower School

One of the most encouraging things we’ve discovered over years of partnership with innovative school communities is that the resources, support, and training that add.a.lingua provides to educators in our immersion partner programs don’t stay in the immersion program.

Nearly all add.a.lingua partner schools operate immersion strand programs alongside their English programs, and these immersion programs very often serve as a catalyst for positive change in both strands. Some of the things we hear most regularly from our partners include:

  • add.a.lingua training has encouraged all teachers to reflect on instructional strategies (ex. how much student talk do we expect, and how much teacher talk?)
  • add.a.lingua’s formative assessment and data tracking has challenged school leaders to think about how data impacts instruction, intervention, and decision making generally
  • add.a.lingua’s language targets and strategies across content areas for immersion teachers inspires teachers in English classrooms to attend to English language acquisition across content areas as well
  • the immersion program has brought with it a healthy linguistic and cultural diversity that benefits all students and teachers


To help us understand how Redlands Christian School (RCS) has been impacted as a whole by their add.a.lingua immersion program, we connected with Julie In’t Hout, Director of Spanish Immersion at RCS. Julie and the team at RCS have experienced tremendous enrollment growth and we’re excited to share a bit of their story.

Why did Redlands Christian decide to implement an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion program?

RCS first decided to pursue implementing an immersion program because our administration was looking to add value, particularly when it means competing with other educational options. Adding immersion was a way to bring additional value to our RCS families, to create an environment that develops the whole child, and to increase our appeal to those considering sending their child to RCS. Connected to that, the interest in adding an add.a.lingua immersion program was significant, and and the RCS leadership team knew there was a good chance that having an immersion program would boost enrollment overall.

Another part of the decision to implement our immersion program was the many positive effects on student academic achievement and cultural competence that are associated with second language


acquisition in immersion settings. We at RCS also knew we couldn’t do it on our own, and that we wanted to have add.a.lingua to help us through the process. We knew that we wanted our immersion program to be a high-quality program, and that we wanted expert guidance.

Describe some of the positive outcomes of implementing an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program for students and families.

  • Significant enrollment boost (our preschool class was made up of 18 students before immersion; this year we have 75 preschoolers–35 in non-immersion, 40 in immersion)
  • Enhanced the culture at the school; families more culturally aware
  • Teachers are well-trained in best practices and it pushes us to question practices and curriculum in non-immersion classrooms and settings as well
  • Student identities have been formed; students are proud and confident in their ability to speak in Spanish
  • Added new perspective and diversity to our staff
  • Buzz for the school
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Redlands Christian Lower School Spanish immersion team (2016)

What were the initial concerns that your community expressed when you were exploring adding an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program, and have they been overcome?

Many wondered if children would truly be able to learn content through a different language.  As we’ve seen students grow in their Spanish language proficiency, and perform across across all content areas, this issue has largely been resolved.

There were also concerns that enrollment and interest in our English track would suffer as a result of offering a Spanish immersion track. We’ve seen enrollment grow overall as since implementing an add.a.lingua immersion program, but this could still be considered a concern for non-immersion classroom teachers and staff.

Additionally, many families are set on having a particular English strand teacher because of their reputation or the precedent that was set by siblings having had that teacher. For many families this is no longer a factor, but it is one reason that families continue to choose our quality English strand. Our immersion teachers are working hard to build their reputations and rapport with our families too.

Finally, there’s the ongoing challenge of finding teachers who are highly qualified and fit well at RCS. This is still a concern, but each year we have found great teachers.

What do you believe is most critical for other Christian school leaders to know when considering an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?

It takes a lot of effort to implement an add.a.lingua immersion program (money, time, energy, risk), but we can also point to tremendous benefits that having the program has provided: overcoming challenges, improved overall instructional practices on campus, enrollment, cultural awareness and connection to our local community, new student identities/confidence, etc. It has been completely worth the work and challenges, and we couldn’t have done it would having add.a.lingua alongside us.

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what’s it like to teach in (and out) of an add.a.lingua partner school?

We often remind families and schools leaders that “not all immersion programs are created equal”. Sarah Vander Laan is a top notch immersion teacher who has experienced this firsthand.

Sarah began as a teacher in an add.a.lingua program, assisted with add.a.lingua framework development, and facilitated professional learning at our summer events. She’s been a part of the add.a.lingua family for years.

When Sarah made a move to a new state and school system a few years ago, we were sad to see her leave the add.a.lingua network, but we also knew that she’d continue her good work helping students acquire multilingualism wherever she landed.

Sarah brought her excellent instructional practices and love for students to a dual language immersion program that doesn’t partner with add.a.lingua. When reflecting on the difference between her experience of working in an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program and in an immersion program that doesn’t partner with add.a.lingua, here’s what Sarah had to say:

We as immersion teachers know that we are both content AND language teachers. We have to wear both hats for our students to achieve content objectives using the target language. Effectively wearing the language teacher hat takes strategic planning for language development, targeted professional development, and language-focused resources.

When I taught in an add.a.lingua school, I didn’t realize how unique it was that we were provided with all of these resources! add.a.lingua took the guess work out of planning because we all knew what we needed to do to support our students’ language development. We had the resources we needed, like anchor lessons, sorts, and picture vocabulary cards. We also had training every year and access to a collaborative site for fellow immersion teachers.

I now teach in an immersion program that does not partner with add.a.lingua. We wish we had a scope & sequence across grade levels, a clear plan for language proficiency development, and (especially) the curricular resources in the target language. Not to mention the professional development opportunities to help us hone our craft as language teachers!

As Sarah notes, we provide immersion educators at our partner schools around the nation with the resources and training in immersion pedagogy they need to successfully attend to the teaching of content and language. We help keep our partners’ immersion programs on track with academic frameworks that are aligned to the common core, and compatible with the curriculum that they’ve selected.

If you’re interested in experiencing add.a.lingua’s resources and training for yourself or for your immersion teaching team, send us a note using the form below. We love to give demonstrations of our resource and assessment platform, and take groups on tours of our immersion partner programs. Let’s talk!


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embracing change in Catholic education: Joanne Jones on add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion

“The face of Catholic America is changing.”

So begins the Pew Center in a 2015 report on the state of U.S. Catholic church. It’s not news that Hispanics are growing as a percentage of the U.S. population, but the percentage of U.S. Catholics who are Hispanic is growing at an even greater rate. This demographic change comes along with a significant linguistic opportunity for educators, and it’s an opportunity that Jo Jones, principal of Corpus Christi Catholic School, has embraced wholeheartedly.

The share of U.S. Catholics who are Hispanic has grown by 5 percentage points since 2007 (from 29% to 34%)…And, the share of Catholics who are Hispanic is likely to continue to grow; among Catholic millennials, as many are Hispanic (46%) as are white (43%).” – Pew Center

Principal Jones spearheaded the launch of an add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion program 4 years ago, and since that time has become a strong proponent of immersion education within the Catholic school community. It was a delight to interview Joanne this month to get her perspective on what the implementation of an add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion program has meant for her school community and the growing number of Latino Catholic families they serve.

Why did Corpus Christi decide to implement an add.alingua Spanish immersion program?

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Principal Joanne Jones

A group of very interested parents realized that our community had the linguistic diversity to be able to pull off an immersion program. We were already a diverse school, but the big change for us came when we acknowledged the gift of that diversity.

What have been some of the positive outcomes of implementing an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program for students and families?

Implementing an immersion program in partnership with add.a.lingua has been central to pulling our English and Spanish language communities together. In a 90-10 two way program, our Spanish dominant students and their home language and culture are treated as a gift, and because language is no longer a barrier, we’ve experienced the participation of parents who might otherwise be less involved.

Our Spanish immersion program has been a major part of transforming our school culture. We now have school wide dinners four times each year, and we’ve changed our hiring practices to consider the multilingual needs of our community. It’s been a beautiful thing.

Span immersion teaching team

What were some of the initial concerns the your community expressed when you were exploring adding an ad.a.lingua dual language immersion program, and have they been overcome?

Initially, there was concern at the leadership level that we wouldn’t have the resources or bandwidth to implement an add.a.lingua dual language program well, given all the other priorities and programs already in place. West Michigan is also home to lots of other add.a.lingua partner schools, and there was some concern that there might be too much competition for us to be successful.

What’s really gratifying is to see that the program has truly become a point of pride for many of the folks that raised these concerns in the beginning. The families involved in the program realized the benefits right away, and so there weren’t major concerns from our parents. We’ve continued to grow our enrollment, thanks in large part to the addition of our add.a.lingua immersion program.

Students who come to school with a home language other than English are very often marginalized in a typical traditional school setting. In an add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion setting, their language and culture become cherished. The model simply doesn’t work without them. So for me, the big win is we’ve taken a significant step to elevate marginalized students, and to prepare them for life of service and leadership in whatever sphere God calls them.

What do you believe is most critical for Catholic school leaders to know when considering an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?

It’s important to realize that you have to invest in the immersion program, and it’s a long term investment. It’s going to be some time for your school and students to really begin to see results.

But you simply can’t call yourself a best practice school if you serve a linguistically diverse community and you haven’t even explored the add.a.lingua 90-10 two way model. This is how students learn two languages best. They learn two languages in addition to experiencing academic and social benefits.

Why do you think adding an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion option makes strategic sense for Catholic School communities?

Catholics More Likely Than Other Americans to Be Hispanic, ImmigrantsNearly 60% of Latinos in the U.S. are practicing Catholics. They represent over a 1/3 of all U.S. Catholics, and that number is growing. So if a Catholic school doesn’t have Latinos enrolling, it’s because there’s some barrier. What better way to remove barriers than to speak someone’s language and honor their culture? We’ve simply got to do this.

Want to learn more about add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion? Watch Principal Iliana Vásquez Ochoa explain the model and how it benefits both Spanish and English dominant students below, and send us a note if you’d like learn more.






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introducing: add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way immersion

What is the add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way immersion?

The add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way immersion model was designed to serve students in linguistically diverse communities, where classrooms can include an equal mix of Spanish dominant and English dominant students. Students begin with 90% of their instructional time in Spanish (the immersion language) and 10% in English in kindergarten, and gradually increase the amount of English instructional time until they reach 50% in each language in 5th grade.

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Why do school communities choose the add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way  immersion model?

As Iliana notes in the video, parents chose the add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way model for the benefits it gives their children in terms of academic achievement, cultural awareness, and proficiency in multiple languages.

School communities also choose this model to better serve their English language learner (ELLs) students. One in ten U.S. students qualifies as an English language learner, and unfortunately, this group of students has the lowest graduation rates of all at-risk subgroups.

Lilah Ambrosi and Ken Williams addressed the issue of equity for our nation’s growing number of ELLs last year for Getting Smart. They wrote that the first step to ensuring equity for our nation’s nascent bilinguals requires

adopting an additive approach to language acquisition…the most effective way to help nascent bilinguals develop their language proficiency in English is by first strengthening literacy in their home language. This additive approach typifies quality language immersion programs.

To understand how life changing an add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way immersion program can be, listen to Maria Ibarra, who shared on our podcast last year how Holland Language Academy has changed her family’s life:

This program is helping me, because I’ve become more involved and whatever doubt I have I can solve it because there are people there who can help me. In other experiences, in another school where they spoke solely English, I really struggled to express concerns that I had about my child, and they couldn’t help me because I didn’t know English and I didn’t understand them. For me, there were many experiences that were extremely difficult, and so truthfully, I sometimes cried because of an inability to advocate, because of feelings of desperation…all because I didn’t know English…thank God that I found this program and my life has changed. My son’s life has changed. His self esteem. He doesn’t want to miss a single day of school.

Where can you find an add.a.lingua 90-10 dual language immersion program?

Three of our partner schools, (Holland Language Academy, Corpus Christi Catholic School, and Holy Cross School) have implemented this add.a.lingua model in order to help their students gain high proficiency in two languages, boost academic achievement, and enlarge their cultural intelligence.

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Is an add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way immersion program right for your community?

If you have a passion for ensuring educational equity for all students in your community, and for meeting the needs of linguistically diverse families, an add.a.lingua 90-10 two-way immersion program might be a great fit for your school. Let’s talk!


Our special thanks go to add.a.lingua partner program, Holland Language Academy and principal Ochoa, for opening their doors and hearts to us. ¡Abrazos!

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launch notes: what it’s like to build and grow an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion program

Are you exploring the possibility of launching a dual language immersion program?

Good for you! Considering the academic, linguistic and social benefits that accompany high proficiency in two languages, this is one of the most strategic moves you can make on behalf of your students and community.

But as you’ve probably already discovered–this is no small undertaking.

You’ll want time, experience, research, community ownership, and resources (personnel, financial, curricular, etc.) all at your disposal in order to get your program off the ground.

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Even though we’ve partnered with dozens of communities to build and grow quality dual language immersion programs, we still liken the effort to a moonshot.

Yes, this is a major challenge.

But, as our 20 partner schools have discovered…it’s totally worth it. And with the right support team beside you, success in dual language immersion education is possible.

Rebecca GomezThat’s why we’re excited to share with you some of the insights Rebecca Gomez has gleaned along the immersion journey. Maestra Gomez serves as the Spanish immersion point person at Pella Christian Grade School (and currently as a teacher), and has been with the program since its inception.

While Pella Christian Grade School is currently our only partner program in Iowa, their success is generating lots of interest. Here’s what Rebecca shared about her experience:

1. Why did Pella Christian Grade School decide to implement an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?

As a Christian school, we decided to implement a dual language immersion program because we felt that it definitely would help us fulfill our mission statement which states, “Proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all spheres of life and learning, Pella Christian Grade School, together with the parents, provides excellent academic training rooted in God’s infallible Word, challenging students to develop their individual God-given gifts for a life of service in God’s kingdom.”

First of all, we believe that learning another language is part of excellent academic training and knowing that on average students of immersion programs perform as well as, if not better academically than, their English track peers and that they can reach high levels of second language proficiency in a well-implemented program, we decided that an immersion program would help us to fulfill the part of our mission statement which says, “provides excellent academic training.”

We also knew that in our community there were parents who desire a second language for their children and providing this option would help us to partner with parents (“together with parents”).

Finally, we decided that speaking a second language and knowing the cultures that speak it would definitely prepare our students “for a life of service in God’s kingdom,” a kingdom that includes the whole world and a world in which there are many Spanish speakers.

Although we usually think toward the future about this life of service, we’ve found that some of our students have already found a way to serve their neighbor by helping Hispanic people who are in need of translators at stores, garage sales, etc.  It’s a beautiful thing to hear these stories!

Besides helping us to fulfill our mission statement, we also considered the fact that bilingualism promotes brain development when students reach high levels of second language proficiency and we wanted to encourage that brain development in our students.

Another reason we implemented Spanish immersion was to attract more people to our school.  The closest other school to offer an immersion education is 50 minutes away.  We hoped that some parents would enroll their students in Pella Christian specifically for the immersion program and then see what a great thing Christian education is and become convinced that it was a great option for their children, immersion track or English track.

Spanish immersion at PCGS

This has been the case as a few families who have older kids in the community school system enrolled their students in our immersion program and then transferred their older children into the English track because they decided they wanted a Christian education for them as well.  It has also been an opportunity for those members of our community who are “not religious”, but who are open to their children learning about Christianity.

2. What have been some of the positive outcomes for students and families of implementing an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?

  • Students view themselves as bilingual and are willing to step out of their comfort zones because they have had to do that as they practice their second language.
  • A greater diversity within our teaching staff.  We now have teachers from México, El Salvador, and Paraguay and one new hire from the Dominican Republic.  This has changed the face of our school; it is now a more open place and the community perceives that.  We have had people who have enrolled their children in the English track, but say that they chose PCGS because it must be an excepting, open place if it has an immersion program.  It also allows students to interact with people “different” than themselves and learn to love them, which makes them more aware of other peoples and cultures, and also more open to them.
  • Students with Spanish language skills have had opportunities to serve people in need of language help now.  Parents are so proud of them when they do this.
  • On average, our immersion students are doing as well or better than their monolingual peers on standardized assessments given in English.  We recently did a comparison of our immersion students and their English track peers at Pella Christian on the Iowa Assessment and they are doing great!  We now have our own data to prove that not only are we giving them a great education, we are also giving them a second language.
  • Our students’ worldview has changed because of the influence of their teachers, but also because languages can shape one’s view of the world and having two languages gives them another perspective.

3. What were some of the initial concerns that your community expressed when you were exploring adding an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?

Some of the main concerns were:

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Pella Christian Grade School first grade teacher, Rogelio Gomez, was the recipient of Leighton State Bank‘s Extraordinary Teacher of the Year Award.

  • Discord would occur amongst Spanish immersion staff and English track staff.  This has not happened at all; in fact some of the English track teachers most against implementing an immersion program were quickly won over by the warmth and work ethic of our immersion staff.
  • That it was impossible for students to learn all their grade-level content and a second language at the same time.  This fear has also not played out; as I stated before we now have our own data to show that they are learning at the same pace as their English track peers.
  • There was also a concern about staffing.  This has definitely not been easy, but we are grateful that every year the Lord has provided a new teacher for us.  Some of the difficulty has come in getting our international hires their visa before the start of the school year.
  • Another concern was that this would change our school.  That has happened, but people now acknowledge that the change has been positive.  At one of the first meetings about implementation, we had a grad from PCGS start crying at the meeting as she said that she wanted her children to have the same education as she did.  She now has her son in our immersion program and is one of our biggest supporters!

4. Looking back, what do you believe is most critical for school leaders to know when considering an add.a.lingua dual immersion program?

I believe it’s critical to think about the dual language immersion program as a Pre-K through 12th-grade program.  It’s true that students appear to be fluent by the end of 5th grade, but they still talk like a 5th grader.

The program needs to be implemented as a 50-50 model through middle school and high school so that the students’ language development grows along with their cognitive development. This means a minimun of three content areas taught in Spanish. My language goal for our students is that they can access all grade-level content areas through both their first and second languages and that upon graduating from high school they have the option of going to the university in English or abroad in Spanish.  I’m not sure that many will take that option, but I want their language to be that good!

I think it’s also critical to know that hiring is difficult and that to provide a quality immersion program, a school cannot hire teachers who are not proficient in the immersion language.  At Pella Christian Grade School, we have really preferred to hire native Spanish speakers and our students’ language levels reflect this.

Finally, I would encourage anyone exploring dual language immersion education to connect with add.a.lingua. Because of add.a.lingua, our team is provided with:

  • professional development which helps our teachers implement with fidelity
  • language frameworks which give us vocabulary, grammatical structures, word features, mentor texts, etc. on which to focus each week
  • support by email, phone, and virtual visits

I cannot say enough good things about add.a.lingua, and would encourage reaching out to them as your first step.

Our big thanks to Rebecca for this interview, and to the entire team at Pella Christian Grade School for all they do on behalf of their students and community.

If you’d like to learn more about how add.a.lingua partners with school communities to successfully launch dual language immersion programs, just leave us a note and we’ll be in touch.


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the ideal immersion class size

We’re sometimes asked what a max (or minimum) number of students in an immersion classroom should be. Because smaller class sizes are universally touted as a selling point, parents in particular want to know how many students is right.

It’s not hard to see the logic:

  • If a smaller class size (a) = more focused attention on my child (b), and
  • more focused attention on my child (b) = better outcomes (c), then
  • a = c, and who wouldn’t take smaller class sizes for better results every day of the week?


class size is just one of many variables

Unfortunately, the logic breaks down when more than 150 other factors impacting educational outcomes are introduced. (Which also happens every day of the week.)

The short answer is that class size can impact a child’s learning. Some research might show a difference when comparing a class size of 25 (for example) to a number far greater than that. But in terms of overall impact, class size is relatively minor compared to many other factors such as collective teacher efficacy, classroom discussion, and parental involvement.

If you haven’t seen Hattie’s work ranking influences on student learning achievement, check it out here. (You’ll find class size well down the list at .21.) Clearly, more has to do with what’s going on in the classroom (lesson plan quality, purposeful talk time for students, and much, much more), than solely the sheer number of people in it.

there’s no ideal immersion class size, but…

We don’t recommend a specific number of students per class to our immersion partners (for the reasons noted above). Some of our partners have nearly 30 students in a class, while others begin with as few as 8 students. Many of our partners have multi-age classrooms.

What we see in each of these classes is that student outcomes are significantly impacted by the quality of teaching happening inside those classrooms. If you wonder why we get so excited about professional learning and helping immersion teachers grow in their craft–now you know!

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So as you wrestle with the question of class size–whether you are an administrator, teacher, or parent–keep the following in mind:

structured support can help ensure program sustainability

Educational programs often “pad” their class sizes in the early years to account for attrition, while adding structured support when necessary. While this padding hasn’t been a focus for our partner schools, there have been cited references to this out there to support the practice to ensure program sustainability (and avoid teacher burnout). Big immersion classes can benefit greatly from a native immersion language speaking teacher aide, especially when the expectation is that the aide’s primary role is to work directly in contact with students instead of time-on-task work like cutting, stapling, making copies or changing the seasonal bulletin board. Don’t overlook the possibility that those teacher aides can also make great teachers as the need arises.

talk time is critical for immersion students, but it’s mainly about teaching strategies, not class size

The amount of talk time immersion students receive is critically important from language acquisition and academic standpoints. But this has nearly everything to do with the teaching strategies employed and not class size. If there’s a focus on dialogic teaching, adding or subtracting a few students won’t change the tone and tenor of the classroom or the expectation that students are regularly, and accurately, producing in the immersion language.

focus your energy on strong instructional practice in the immersion classroom, and on building healthy teacher and student identity

Student success will be strongly impacted by the instructional strategies and lesson design,  as well as the values and beliefs that educators and students carry with them into the classroom. If you were going to “spend a buck” for max impact, spend .95 on these areas, and .05 on classroom size. (That’s our .02).

What has been your experience with varying class sizes? Let us know in the comments section.

You can learn a little more about how we’re helping to equip immersion teachers at our partner schools for success through our five year add.a.lingua certification.

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Looking for training that’s more in nature? Check out the add.a.lingua menu, and let us know how we can help.

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celebrating our 2017-18 partner programs

As we’ve talked with diverse groups of school leaders across the country about dual language immersion education, we’ve discovered that learning communities explore and launch immersion programs for a variety of reasons:

Of course, these reasons aren’t mutually exclusive, and school communities typically cite several of these reasons as important in their decision making process.

As we look ahead to the 2017-18 academic year, we’re thrilled partner with with 20 schools and districts across the U.S., and to serve nearly 3,000 students and 200 educators. And as the leaders of our partner schools will attest, partnership with add.a.lingua is no small undertaking.

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We ask a lot of our partners in terms of their time commitment to immersion specific professional learning, application of research based instructional practices, and regular formative assessment of students in the target language. And we’re of the opinion that the hard work that our partners do each year to maintain and build the quality of their programs is worth celebrating, don’t you?

It would be awesome to pull an Oprah and send them each a brand new car…but for now, we’ll use the power of the internet to sing their praises.

For all the families out there considering an immersion program for your student(s), please get in touch with one of our partners in your area and learn more. And if there’s not an add.a.lingua partner school in your area, be sure to check out our helpful checklist:

add.a.lingua’s 2017-18 partners

Calvary Christian Academy

Calvary Christian Academy is one of our three brand new partners in 17-18.  We love the passion they have for their school community and the possibilities that an immersion program opens up for their area. They’re offering preschool, kindergarten, and two first grade sections this fall.

Grandville Christian School

Calvin Christian Middle School

Grandville Calvin Christian (grade school and middle school) is our second oldest partner. They provide an early-total one-way Spanish immersion program, and their dedicated team of leaders and teachers will be offering preschool – 8th grade this fall. Middle school students will spend 50% of their time in the immersion language–which is so very important for continued growth. Go Squires!

Corpus Christi Catholic School

Corpus Christi Catholic School is a 90-10 two-way immersion program. They’re a long-time partner and administrator Jo-Jones has been powerful advocate for immersion education in the Catholic school community. They have been able to share their experience in cross-cultural bridge building via immersion education far and wide. They’ll be offering preschool – 4th grade Spanish immersion classes this fall.

Covenant Christian School

The first Spanish immersion program in the South Bend area, Covenant Christian has been an immersion forerunner in Indiana–having run a successful program long before the state of Indiana began offering grants for immersion program start-ups. They’ll offer preschool through 6th grade early-total one-way Spanish immersion this fall.

Crown Point Christian School

The pride of St. John! (or so we like to call them : ) Crown Point Christian will offer preschool – 3rd grade early-total one-way Spanish immersion this fall. Their program has grown like gangbusters over the last several years, and we’re excited to welcome their new principal, Mr. Wiersma, to the party!

Evergreen Christian School

So far north and west, you can practically hit Vancouver with a roca from the campus–Evergreen Christian School offers an early-total one-way Spanish immersion program.  We love the pride that principal (and immersion grandpa) Glen Hendricks has for his school and their growing program.  His commitment to professional learning from a distance was present long before we made it easier with add.a.lessonly. Evergreen Christian School will offer preschool through second grade this fall.

Fremont Christian School

We attempted to bottle up the humility of principal John Barkel and the enthusiasm of program point person Julie Karnemaat, but apparently the FDA has to get involved when you’re dealing with such high potency educational medicine. Suffice it to say, it’s a joy to work with this growing, early-total one-way program. They’ll be offering kindergarten – 4th grade Spanish immersion next year.

Grand Haven Christian School

Principal James Onderlinde and the team at Grand Haven Christian will be offering an early-total one-way Spanish immersion class (k-1 combination) this fall. They’re a forerunner in the tri-cities area, and we appreciate how they’ve taken their time to do things the right way by educating their community and casting a vision for the power of immersion education, as well as being intentional about learning from other established add.a.lingua partner schools. Grand Haven Christian School is off to a great start!

Holland Language Academy at Van Raalte

Under the leadership of principal Iliana Vásquez-Ochoa, Holland Public Schools moved its immersion strand program to Holland Language Academy at Van Raalte last year as the district’s new language magnet school. Enrollment in their 90-10 two-way Spanish immersion program continues to grow, and with a veteran teaching staff, they’re poised to really build upon their past successes this year. Holland Language Academy will offer kindergarten – 7th grade Spanish immersion this fall.

Holy Cross School

Home of the Crusaders, Holy Cross School is one of the oldest Catholic elementary schools in in Indiana. But they’re our newest 90-10 two-way Spanish immersion partner. Located in South Bend, Indiana, Holy Cross School benefits from a strong community of program champions including staff from Notre Dame University and Holy Cross College. Holy Cross will launch a preschool section this fall, and is well positioned to serve their linguistically diverse community.

Kalamazoo Christian Schools

One of our longtime partners, Kalamazoo Christian School will offer an early total one-way Spanish immersion program for preschool – 7th grade this fall. Marc Verkaik and Emily VanDis lead a committed team of teachers that consistently show up and do the work to grow in their craft. They’re a dedicated bunch and are working hard prepare their program for the evaluation and endorsement. We’re cheering them on!

Legacy Christian School

On Grand Rapids’ south side, Legacy Christian School is growing a quality early-total one-way Spanish immersion program. With veteran teachers, they’re really poised to be a leading program in their area and principal Vince Bonnema has been instrumental in marshaling the resources of his community on behalf of the school and program. Legacy Christian School will offer kindergarten and first grade Spanish immersion this fall.

Muskegon Christian School

Muskegon Christian is a fully articulated, preschool-6th grade, early total one-way Spanish immersion program. They’re a longtime add.a.lingua partner school and have been faithfully serving their community since the 1880’s! Muskegon is a diverse community, and MCS is proud that their student body and their families reflect that diversity. Get in touch with principal Dan DeKam if you’re interested in learning more about Spanish immersion at Muskegon Christian.

NorthPointe Christian School

NorthPointe Christian School offers their community an early-total one-way Spanish immersion program serving preschool-6th grade. Their secondary students benefit from 50% time in the immersion language, and they’re already laying the groundwork for an innovative experience with the essential time and intensity in the immersion language for high school immersion students. Go Mustangs!

Oakland Christian School

The leadership team at Oakland Christian School brims with pride in their teaching team and in the strength of their young program. Offering an early-total one-way Spanish immersion program for preschool – second grade this fall, the OCS community has really responded positively to the addition of their immersion program. It’s clear that administrators Gordon Nickel and Vonda Morga really enjoy their work, and are excited about what immersion education means for their community.

Pella Christian Grade School

Under the dedicated leadership of David TeGrotenhuis and Rebecca Gomez, Pella Christian Grade School has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 6 years. Immersion education has been a game changer for them, helping to grow enrollment and energize their community. Now offering preschool through 6th grade early-total one-way Spanish immersion, this is a school committed to excellence and the very best outcomes for the students they serve. Keep it up PCGS!

Redlands Christian School

Holding down the immersion fort in California is Redlands Christian School. They’re offering preschool through third grade early total one-way Spanish immersion this fall. With growing enrollment and a lot of energy for their program in their community, it’s been a real pleasure to see the dedicated leadership team of Bill Johnson and Julie In’t Hout roll with the changes that inevitably come with starting a brand new program. They’ve been dedicated participants in our professional development over the years, putting on a lot of miles with their teams. A big round of aplauso for the team at Redlands Christian School!

St. Peter’s Episcopal

Offering Chattanooga’s first Spanish immersion program, St. Peter’s Episcopal School now offers preschool through 1st grade early-total one-way Spanish immersion. This leadership team is all heart, and it’s been our pleasure to work with them over the last several years as their program has matured. Program leaders Meredith Ruffner and Monica Griffin have led by example in their participation, and we expect more good things for them in the year ahead.

Zeeland Christian School

Our founding partner, Zeeland Christian School offered west Michigan’s lakeshore communities their first immersion program. ZCS has grown significantly over the years with about half of all students now enrolled in one of the schools’s two early-total one-way immersion programs. Spanish immersion is offered preschool – 8th grade, and Mandarin Chinese is now offered preschool – 6th grade. Despite having just celebrated their centennial, ZCS shows no signs of slowing down. This year they’ll welcome a new school administrator, Tim McAboy, and begin to tackle Mandarin Chinese immersion for middle schoolers. Let the adventure…continue!

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taking add.a.lingua professional development to the next level with Lessonly

There are few things that we like better than hanging out with dual language immersion teachers and administrators and talking about the art of multilingual teaching. We have a steadfast belief in the capacity for growth in students and adults alike, and getting to know our partners face to face has been one of the best parts of expanding into new regions across the U.S.

Conferences style events have their place, but an in-person educator summit was no longer serving our partners well. In short, we needed a change.

But as the add.a.lingua network of partner schools has grown over the years, it’s been increasingly challenging for our geographically disparate partner schools, and the add.a.lingua team, to find common dates and times in the summer months to gather for extended professional learning. Conferences style events have their place, but an in-person educator summit was no longer serving our partners well. In short, we needed a change.

Lessonly logo

As we set about incorporating the feedback of our partner school administrators and teachers, our goal was to take the dynamic professional development we’ve historically offered during our summer educator summit and deliver it online.

We needed a way to provide differentiated learning to our partners schools across the nation that could be completed asynchronously, and could also provide teachers and administrators a simple interface to track their own progress toward add.a.lingua certification.

After interviewing and analyzing numerous learning management systems, we struck up a partnership with the good people at Lessonly, and last week we launched our new online professional learning platform. (Hooray!)

Filming professional development modules.

We were geeked to hang out with several groups of fantastic dual language immersion educators throughout the filming process.

It was no small undertaking. We spent days recording video modules with Emmy nominated film-maker and composer Eric Schrotenboer, and several groups of dual language immersion teachers and program leaders from across the area. Then began the work of editing and shaping the content to be facilitated by program point people.

Through it all, we’ve been so grateful for the feedback and support of our partner schools–we knew the adoption of a learning management system would be a big step forward for ALL of us. It was our steadfast belief in human dignity and capacity for growth that propelled us forward, and so far the feedback has been tremendous:

“Seems user friendly! Thanks for never getting stuck in a rut ~ your innovativeness (yes, I just made that a word) is inspiring for us to strive for our A game too!” – Julie

“It was really helpful. Thank you so much!” – Pedro

“Change is good! Thanks for pushing the SI instructors!” – Laura

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The team from Calvary Christian Academy is exploring success indicators in add.a.lingua’s quality quadrants.

It’s extremely gratifying to see teachers and program leaders, like our partners at Calvary Christian Academy pictured above, already tackling their professional learning courses and lessons online and growing in their practice to better serve their students and communities.
Three cheers for dedicated educators that have given their all to students this year and who continue to grow in their craft. Hip, hip, hooray!


Want to learn more about how add.a.lingua provides differentiated professional development for dual language immersion educators?

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dual language immersion education: take the leap

It’s hard to believe the 2016/2017 school year is almost done.  New things create anxiety in me and I feel like we have just settled into this year.

I get asked what we think our kids will do with the Spanish they have learned.  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  In the grocery store the other day a family speaking Spanish passed us a few times and the dad had a little girl sound asleep on his shoulder. I asked Gina to use her Spanish to tell them they had a beautiful daughter.  No amount of bribery prompted her to say anything to them.  I can’t change that.

I can’t make my kids use their Spanish.  I can trust that what they have learned will come out when it is needed.  I can trust that the years of learning will bridge a gap between “them” and “us”.  I can hope my kids will be world changers due to the choices we made in their education.

As we move out of the 2nd, 4th and 6th grades I continue to be amazed at how proficient they are.  Middle school brought with it more English than in previous years but also new subject areas that were taught in Spanish.  4th grade days have more Spanish than English but in 2nd grade the only language spoken is Spanish.  Recently I spent a few hours with the 2nd grade class and only a short amount of time in the 4th grade class.  My mind was so tired!!!  It reminded me to have grace for them when they come home from school and are tired and need down time! 

Hannah’s 2nd grade class went on a fieldtrip to an old school house.  Her teacher held school in the old, one room school house.  They compared what school was like then to now.  The kids had a play they read and were assigned parts.  It was so fun to hear them!  

IMG_2516.JPGA few days later I spent time in the 6th grade room.  It’s fun to see kids more comfortable with their Spanish.  While the kids were getting ready for class there was more joking around and activity taking place.  Once they settled in the kids also read a play.  How fun to compare the fluency and speed by which the kids progressed from 2nd to 6th grade.

BUT, if asked “would I do it all over again?”  THAT I can answer. Yes.  100x over, yes.

We are proud of our kids and the work they have put into learning a second language.  

Do I know what high school will look like to keep their Spanish proficiency growing?  No.

Do I know what their ACT/SAT scores are going to be?  No. But I don’t know what they would be if they weren’t learning a second language either.

Do I know if learning a second language will propel them toward being a doctor or a lawyer or work in the mission field? No. But I do know this: I have given my children the gift of a second language.  Someday they will use it.

This gift isn’t always easy or pretty.  It doesn’t come without questions and maybe even some tears.

BUT, if asked “would I do it all over again?”  THAT I can answer. Yes.  100x over, yes.

If you are considering it, take the leap.  Put aside your own questions or anxiety and embrace something new.  You won’t regret it!

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courage instead of fear: Mandarin immersion continues to change us inside and out

By Cara Wickstra

As I reflect on our time so far in immersion, I can see it truly was a game changer to take the step of faith and enroll in Mandarin immersion. I’ll be honest, it took some courage for me to say yes to Mandarin because it was way outside of my comfort zone and knowledge base. It was not very likely that I would be able to “pick up” Mandarin as I potentially could with Spanish in order to understand a little of what my kids and their teachers were saying.

I’m beginning to notice is that there’s an inside change that happens with these kids too. They begin to see the world differently.

And yet, as parents, we want the best for our children. We hope and pray that their lives in some ways will be better than ours – they’ll be smarter than us, make better choices at key moments in their lives, have more courage than we did, etc. As an immersion parent, I’ve already sent them in a new direction and equipped them with tools more advanced than I had.  But that’s not the end of it. We often look at immersion and see the outside, which is still amazing.  But what I’m beginning to notice is that there’s an inside change that happens with these kids too.

They begin to see the world differently. When a stranger passes by speaking another language
or from another country, they strain to see if that person speaks a language they know. Instead of the barriers of culture, immersion opens wide a desire to communicate with people from different places and countries.  Instead of foreign = fear, to these kids foreign = friend. My first grader is already making plans to add another language to his tool belt once he finishes Mandarin. My preschooler is attempting to speak Mandarin by stringing together a few words she knows. Even my three year old was telling me last night that he spoke Mandarin because he told kids on the playground “Nee How” (which is hello in Mandarin).  He even invented a Mandarin song by singing “Nee How” over and over again. We are opening the world to these kids in a way that could never be done by simply shopping at an Asian market or eating out at authentic cuisine … and it’s amazing.

But that’s not the end of it. These kids are opening their minds to the world through language, while the parents are opening their homes through adoption. I know of seven Mandarin immersion families accounting for eight children from China that have been or are in the process of adoption. I’m not sure if this is a typical situation, but what it tells me is that this passion for learning language and culture speas to our core. And to think, if I listened to my fears or my desire to stay in my comfort zone I would’ve totally missed this blessing for my kids, my family and myself.

Have I ever been to China? No. Am I a little bit scared about going to a place so foreign to me with a language I simply cannot decode? Definitely. But I’m still planning to go. At some point, once all the kids are in school, we will make the trip to China as a family. I have a feeling I will be so glad I went, once again choosing courage instead of listening to my fears.