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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.

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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.

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leadership institute 2017: serving dual language immersion program leaders

Each spring, add.a.lingua gathers dual language immersion program leaders from around the nation for our leadership institute. During these two days of intensive professional development, administrators have opportunities to gain deep insights about dual language immersion pedagogy, set goals and vision for the program, and network with colleagues facing similar challenges.

With our 7th leadership institute now in the books, we wanted to share some vignettes from our partners. With so many great stories to share, we’re only able to share a few representative samples. But we think you’ll enjoy hearing stories of program and community victories, and a little about what it has meant for these program leaders to partner with add.a.lingua.

dual language immersion program highlights from add.a.lingua partners

Iliana Vásquez-Ochoa and Lynnette Brander from Holland Language Academy shared positive developments from Holland Public School’s Spanish immersion magnet program.

Gordon Nickel and Vonda Morga of Oakland Christian School shared positive developments in areas of student retention, assessment results, staffing and title funding.

Maria Gomez from Corpus Christi Catholic School shared that their Spanish immersion program is helping to grow and the diversity of their school community and that professional learning offered by add.a.lingua via webinars has been very powerful this year.

All the way from southern California, Julie In’t Hout and Bill Johnson from Redlands Christian School shared program highlights from their early total one-way Spanish immersion program.

The leaders from one of our three brand new partner schools, Calvary Christian Academy, shared some of the things they’re excited about as they look ahead to open pre-k through first grade Spanish immersion classes in the fall of 2017.

school leaders reflect on partnership with add.a.lingua

When asked to reflect on leadership in the context of dual language immersion and partnership with add.a.lingua, Glen Hendricks, principal of Evergreen Christian School blew us away with his thoughts on developing trust.

David Te Grotenhuis, principal of Pella Christian Grade School, shared about how partnering with add.a.lingua has enabled his school to serve as a regional knowledge center for dual language immersion programs in Iowa.

We’re so grateful for these dedicated leaders and their willingness to engage over two days in meaningful dialogue with add.a.lingua and each other about how to strengthen their dual language immersion programs.

If you’re interested in see more of add.a.lingua’s professional learning in action, check out highlights from leadership institute 2016.

Want to talk about professional development for your immersion team? Check out our options, and let us know how we can help.

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add.a.ligua welcomes our newest partner, Holy Cross School of South Bend, Indiana

The entire add.a.lingua team is excited to announce Holy Cross School of South Bend, Indiana as our newest Spanish immersion partner program.

Holy Cross is enrolling now for their two-way Spanish immersion preschool opening fall 2017. Interested families should contact Dulce Curry for more information:

Dulce Curry – 574-855-6535

“We’ve enjoyed our time getting to know the leadership team at Holy Cross and their many allies from Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame. They’ve been doing a great job raising awareness of the program. Their approach to community building through a two-way dual language immersion model is really encouraging,” said Lilah Ambrosi, add.a.lingua co-founder. “We’re looking forward partnering with the Holy Cross School and to helping them add another quality educational option for their community.”

“This is a great step for the Holy Cross School community and we truly couldn’t be happier for everyone involved. Multilingual learning is such a blessing for students, and will open up incredible vocational and relational doors for them. We’re grateful to the leadership of Holy Cross School for the opportunity to partner with them,” added Stacey Vanden Bosch, add.a.lingua co-founder, “and we know that their commitment to quality dual language immersion education will be a real benefit the families of South Bend.”

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To learn more about add.a.lingua’s partnership process and how we help build and support quality dual language immersion education programs around the U.S., check out our partnership process explanation here. And if you’re interested in exploring dual language immersion education in your area, send us a note. Let’s keep talking…in multiple languages!

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Want to help your child develop tenacity? Consider immersion education.

by Meghan VanLente

As a parent, I want my kids to be both happy and successful – most parents would probably agree with me that they want that for their kids too. But I have found that the practice of having happy and successful children is much more difficult than the lofty ideal.

My kids aren’t always happy no matter what I do – my 5 and 9 year old seem to be more often arguing than happily playing, and they often can’t experience success at the moment they want it. My 5 year old wants to climb the tree that my 9 year old can – but the 5 year old just can’t. I don’t want to explain that to the emergency room doctor. And my 9 year old doesn’t have the skills yet for his own pocket knife – again another example of trying to avoid an ER visit

So, I’ve wondered – if I can’t secure their happiness and success at this stage, will I ever be able to? And the answer that I have come to (from talking to some wise people in my life, reading some good books, and experiencing life as middle school teacher), is NO – that I probably can’t ever “create” happiness and success for my kids all th time – no matter how many times I say “yes,” how much money I spend on trips and toys, or how well I orchestrate their playdates.

That realization has brought me some relief. I am not solely responsible for my children’s happiness or success (nor should I hold that responsibility for my husband, my kids’ teachers, friends, or our pastor). But we (as parents, teachers, and friends of our children) are not off the hook. Because I do think that I we have a responsibility to teach those life-skills that can lead to our children becoming those kind of individuals who live contente
and productive lives.

As I have looked at character traits that build the kind of end result I want to see in my kids, a few have stood out that specifically speak to my choice to put my kids in a Spanish immersion program. One that sticks out to me is TENACITY.

At a very young age, each of my kids got thrown into a room with a bunch of other 4 year olds and a teacher who started speaking to them in a language they didn’t understand. And she kept doing all sorts of singing, dancing, acting, pointing, modeling, and repeating in that language while the kids kept up a guessing game – trying to figure out what in the world she was trying to say. But amazingly, after months of hard work on the part of both child and teacher, my preschooler is coming home explaining words in Spanish to ME – ones he figured out at school.

“Mas means more, Mom,” he confided to me the other day. “How do you know?” I asked. “Because,” he replied, “when we say that, our teacher does our favorite color song again – the one where she’s a little crazy and the song makes us laugh.”kids-only

I love that the experience isn’t arduous – not overly difficult – but it takes tenacity – the ability to keep going in the face of difficulty – to do it. That character trait shows up all throughout the language immersion experience and develops the character to push forward in the face of challenge, rather than backing down.

I’m thankful for immersion teachers who don’t give up when the kids don’t get it right away, and for the opportunity for my kids to develop the character trait of tenacity – persevering, trying to think, to speak, to grow, to learn – in a second language.

Of course tenacity can be learned in many venues – but immersion education is a specific way that I can help my children, not to be happy or necessarily successful today, but to develop the character to recognize that challenges aren’t excuses for unhappiness and that difficulty is a stepping stone for success, not a reason for failing.

Read more from Meghan VanLente, and sign up to be a member of our informed parent community.

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Las Fallas and cultivating connections at home and abroad

by Cortney Housman

In our technologically advanced culture, SKYPE has made a way to cultivate connection and community across the world.

Our excited second grade immersion students enjoyed a SKYPE session with their new friends from Spain, Miss Teresa’s sisters. (The classroom was blessed with their presence here in Saint John, Indiana when tey visited early January.) While receiving a SKYPE tour of the neighborhoods and experiencing a taste of the home designs, the students were amazed at the beauty of the buildings and the artistic expressions.


Ninot–Las Fallas (photo credit,

Teresa’s sisters were joy-filled as they were preparing to travel to the city of Valencia for “Las Fallas.” The pyrotechnic enthusiasts in the classroom were excited hearing about the loud, smoky, high-spirited fiesta where the whole town is set ablaze to celebrate the onset of spring and the planting season. There are a myriad of other activities that transpire during Las Fallas de Valencia including bullfights, parades, beauty pageants, and paella contests.

This picture is incredibly symbolic to our souls being illuminated and propelled to actively engage in a harvest season. John 4:35 encourages us to “raise our eyes and look at the fields and see that they are white for harvest.”

Recently, my son Olyver was fighting a battle against the spreadable Influenza A virus, resulting in his absence at school. Upon his return, a trifecta of girls reacted to a prompting to pray for Olyver that he would experience full healing and regain his strength.

class3-2.jpgThat same day, while driving my children home, Olyver made a point to explain how he was deeply cared for and experienced a sense of peace after receiving those prayers. As a mom, it is a sacred blessing to witness these second graders actively partaking in gospel initiatives.

With an awareness that the poor will never cease to be in the land, the Spanish immersion students recently collected jars of salsa and canned tomatoes to freely give to our brothers and sisters in the community who are in need. It was encouraging to witness these students and their zealous passion to donate as many jars as possible, even sending some of us moms out to the grocery store to meet high quotas.

One lovely madre, Taytum, recently texted me to invite our family to a local Spanish-speaking church, El Pacto de Gracia in Chicago Heights, to immerse Olyver and her son Ethan in the community and encourage them to interact with local hispanic people while hearing the scriptures spoken in Spanish. She also has inspiring plans to make homemade paella with our families and enjoy a Spanish meal in community together. We look forward to embarking on this journey next month and experiencing cultural diversity.

Gwendolyn Brooks once stated “we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

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how to hire, develop, and keep a quality immersion teaching team

One of the questions that always surfaces when we talk with school leaders and communities Lilah Ambrosi, add.a.linguaabout dual language immersion education is…where do we find immersion teachers?

It’s a fair question, especially given the additional qualifications and expectations these teachers will need to meet, and the bilingual teacher shortage in general.

That’s why we’re excited to bring to you a conversation with add.a.lingua co-founder, Lilah Ambrosi, as she tackles one of the most pressing challenges facing dual language immersion program leaders: how to hire, develop, and keep a quality immersion teaching team.

Sharing insights from her background as a dual language immersion school principal, Lilah offers suggestions on hiring, investing in staff, and developing a culture of shared success.

Listen in and let us know what you think. And if you’re a leader of a dual language immersion program, we’d welcome your suggestions about things that have worked in your own teacher recruitment and development efforts.


No time to listen? No worries. Distilled for you here are 5 insights on hiring, developing and sustaining a quality immersion teaching team:


1. Network like crazy. Get the word out about your program, and be willing to look beyond the typical channels where find teachers. Developing connections with community organizations, colleges and universities can make a big difference.

2. Look for missional alignment. You want teachers that are all in on the mission of your organization. If your program espouses the belief that immersion education is for all students, and that all students can succeed–then look for teachers who share that belief and don’t quit.

3. Screen to save time.  You’ll get a lot of applicants that simply aren’t prepared for success in an immersion setting, so take the time to develop a screening process will save you a lot of time in the long run. As just two examples, we encourage our partner schools to look for an advanced high to superior ACTFL OPI rating, and to note any extended periods of living abroad.

developing your team:

4. Have high expectations and invest in high quality professional learning. Find immersion specific professional development opportunities with add.a.lingua, CARLA, or CAL. Encourage networking with other immersion teachers.

sustaining your team:

5. Compensate creatively and make celebration a priority. Your immersion teachers have additional responsibilities, and so you might consider offering a stipend for their participation in professional learning above and beyond what is asked of their English track peers. When a teacher experiences some success or has a breakthrough, find a way to celebrate it and nest that celebration within the overall mission of your school in a way that lifts everyone up. Individual successes can become team victories.


If you’d like to learn more about how add.a.lingua can you help take your teaching staff to the next level through dual language immersion specific professional learning opportunities, get in touch using the form below.

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¡Bienvenidos Calvary Christian Academy!

Team add.a.lingua is pleased to welcome Calvary Christian Academy of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida as our newest Spanish immersion partner program.

Enrolling now for their inaugural Spanish immersion preschool, kindergarten, and first grade classes in fall of 2017, interested families should contact the school to learn more:

p. 954-905-5100

“It’s been a pleasure to work with the leadership team at Calvary Christian Academy, and to witness how intentional they’ve been in exploring dual language immersion education for their community,” said Lilah Ambrosi, add.a.lingua co-founder. “They visited several of our partner programs and were gracious hosts to our team in the planning phase, and now it’s really exciting to start this partnership journey with them.”

“We couldn’t be happier for the Calvary Christian Academy community as they take their first steps this fall in dual language immersion education. Research consistently shows how students benefit from quality dual language immersion education, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with CCA to positively impact students and their families in Ft. Lauderdale,” added Stacey Vanden Bosch, add.a.lingua co-founder. “Multilingualism is such a gift, and we’re thrilled to have a dedicated new partner school at Calvary Christian Academy.”

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To learn more about add.a.lingua’s partnership process and how we help build and support quality dual language immersion education programs around the U.S., check out our partnership process explanation here. And if you’re interested in exploring dual language immersion education in your area, send us a note. Let’s keep talking…in multiple languages!

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does speaking another language change your personality?

Who are you when you speak a language other than your native tongue? That’s the question Nicola Prentice explores in a recent article for Quartz.

You’re still you, of course, but as Nicola points out, research around this topic suggests that when you tap into another language, you might also be a more open, more assertive, or more extraverted version of yourself–depending on the language spoken, and the context in which you learned it. (Or as evidenced by the picture of Crown Point Christian’s students at the top, learning Spanish might make you feel a little more like taking up Flamenco!)

After helping to conduct two studies on the connection between language and self-perception, Nairan Ramírez-Esparza, an assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Connecticut, concluded:

“The language cannot be separated from the cultural values of that language. You see yourself through the cultural values of the language you are speaking.”

And as Bonny Norton, a professor of language and literacy education at British Columbia University points out:

“The minute you speak to someone you’re engaging in an identity negotiation. ‘Who are you? Where are you? How do I relate to you? How do you see me?’ So when someone says their personality changes, what they’re saying is: ‘When I talk to other people my personality changes.’”

add.a.lingua co-founder, Lilah Ambrosi, noticed this same linguistic personality flip when after an evening of conversation with her Spanish speaking teachers and aides, her husband would ask, “‘Why is everyone so animated? What’s all the emotion about?’ I would find myself responding, ‘What? We were just talking.’ So there’s pretty clearly an emotive thing happening when I’m speaking Spanish with my colleagues and friends that’s above and beyond how I normally communicate in English.”

It’s a fascinating discussion, and one with real implications for dual language immersion students who are often learning language and culture together from native speakers of the immersion language. As Nicola points out, the context of the language acquisition matters a great deal:

“It may also be that the context in which you learn a second language is essential to your sense of self in that tongue. In other words, if you’re learning to speak Mandarin while living in China, the firsthand observations you make about the people and culture during that period will be built into your sense of identity as a Mandarin speaker. If you’re learning Mandarin in a classroom in the US, you’ll likely incorporate your instructor’s beliefs and associations with Chinese culture along with your own—even if those beliefs are based on stereotypes.”

We love seeing dual language immersion teachers weave culture into their instruction– moving beyond surface features like music and cuisine, to include things like idiomatic expressions. As we tell parents and communities around the nation, any quality dual language immersion program will include cross-cultural competency as a key student outcome. Because as Nicola concludes,

“When you learn a new language, you’re not just memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules—you also have a chance to tap into new parts of your identity.”

Three cheers to that!