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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!

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Spanish dual language immersion from the viewpoint of a student

Gina Vander Zwaag is a 6th grade student in Spanish immersion at Zeeland Christian School. We were able to catch up Gina’s parents just before school year began, and learned a little about her experience growing up in the immersion program and her nerves as she headed into middle school. So it’s a special treat to welcome Gina to our blog, as she shares about her immersion experience, and how things are going in 6th grade.

Can you tell us what you like best about your Spanish immersion experience?

One of the things that I like about Spanish immersion are the teachers. I like the teachers because so many come from different places and they all have different stories. Another thing about Spanish immersion is knowing that I can speak a different language that some others can’t speak. Sometimes knowing Spanish comes in handy because if we go to a school to visit and some of the kids there speak Spanish I can talk to them.  It’s fun communicating with them in Spanish. Another reason why I like Spanish is to talk to my brother and sister without my parents knowing what we’re saying! We don’t really do that very much though.  Our parents do not know Spanish.  

Now that I’m in 6th grade, half of my day is in Spanish and the other half is in English. I do really like that because it gives me a chance to not only get good at Spanish but also at my English skills. Another thing I like about Spanish immersion are the amazing teachers that teach us. Both Spanish and English teachers are amazing in the way the teach us.  Sometime it’s a little hard to tell what the teacher is saying if they have an accent but usually I can tell what they’re saying.gina

What has been the most challenging part of Spanish immersion?

One thing that I don’t like about Spanish immersion is not mixing the English and Spanish classes at school. The reason I don’t like that is because some of my best friends are in English and I hardly even knew them before 6th grade. Another thing that isn’t so great about Spanish immersion has been to say my Bible verse in Spanish. But now that I’m in 6th grade it’s in English which I like better.  Spanish immersion is really good and I like being in it. My friends and I have a really good time in Spanish.

Tell us a little about learning to read in English—how did that come about?

When I was in third grade I sort of just started reading chapter books in English. I don’t know how it happened – I was just able to read in English. I hadn’t even had English classes before. I don’t know how that happened. One struggle I had was reading in Spanish because I wasn’t familiar with it. The words don’t just sound out like English but I learned after a while. To write in Spanish was hard too because I tried to write like I knew how to in English – sounding it out. I learned how to do that too but it took a while.  It was harder because my parents weren’t able to help me with my Spanish.  My mom learned the alphabet and blend sounds in Spanish when I did!

What advice or encouragement do you have for younger immersion students?

If someone asked me if they should send their kids to Spanish immersion I would say yes.  When I get older I think it will open up different opportunities for me that I might not have had without knowing a second language.  I’m glad my parents made that choice for me.  

When you think ahead about what being bilingual could mean for your future, what things come to mind?

When I think of my future and being bilingual I think that It could mean a lot. Like I could help people in Spanish. I think It would be fun to go to Mexico or some other Spanish speaking country and learn more of the language and the culture of Spanish.

Tell us about a time when you were able to use your Spanish outside of school. How did it make you feel? How do you think it made the other person feel?

So my mom mentors through our church at grand rapids public schools and most of the kids there actually speak Spanish. So when we went there to visit my Mom’s mentoring student her parents didn’t know English so It was a pretty cool feeling speaking to someone I don’t know and out of school.

What would you tell a group of parents who are thinking about this for their child? What would you say to parents who just aren’t sure if their kids could do it!?

I would tell them to put there Kids in Spanish because it’s fun knowing that you are learning another language and what you can do with your Spanish is cool to. Spanish is a fun language to learn and I think we need more Spanish speaking people in our community.


To read about the experiences of other immersion families at our partner schools, check out any of the posts in our #dliparent blogger series.

And be sure to join our community of informed immersion parents by signing up for our  informed parent guide.

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6 questions parents should ask before enrolling their child in a dual language immersion program

It’s March, the month (for many parents) of preschool and kindergarten registration.

And if your family is like ours, schools have begun their bombardment on social media, and flooded your mailbox with advertisements. We have two children in the preschool age group and this month alone we collected 5 mailings from different preschools. (One of which was on the other side of the state!)

Regardless of how many choices crowd your inbox or mailbox, it can be difficult to make a decision, especially if you’re considering a dual language immersion program for your child.

We’re here to give parents a leg up.

Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask of the dual language immersion programs as you consider options for your child. While open houses are a great first step, we’d encourage you to ask for a program tour, which will give you deeper insights into the program and school culture and afford you the opportunity to ask these questions: two dual language immersion models explained

1. What immersion model do you follow?

(specifically: how many instructional minutes are allocated for each language at the
elementary level? the secondary level?) The visual at right explains the research based models our organization supports.

2. How do teachers in the immersion program and the traditional program interact?

What does the school due to encourage students to interact across these programs? Schools can encourage teacher teaming across languages by pairing new immersion teachers with a seasoned English program mentor teachers. Students from different strands can be integrated during specials and school events to encourage friendships across languages.

3. What should I expect regarding the teacher’s proficiency in a second language? What can I expect regarding my child’s proficiency in a second language?

High quality teaching begins with high levels of teacher language proficiency. Programs should be aiming to help students to meet grade level expectations regardless of the language of instruction. Check out our language proficiency demystified resource (part of the informed parent guide) for more information on student language proficiency.

4. How do school leaders raise the status of the minority language in their school?

A school’s culture educates every bit as much as its curriculum. Evidence of cross-pollination between programs can include: FLES programs, school signage, musical programs, communication, and commitment to upholding the integrity of the immersion model.

5. How much immersion specific professional development do you offer?

Most teacher preparation programs are focused on educational pedagogy for a screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-10-12-59-amtraditional classroom, offering even multilingual teacher candidates very little immersion specific preparation. Thus, emerging teachers interested in the immersion setting need support, guidance and additional instruction in order to appropriately craft a learning environment unique to the dual language immersion student.

6. What is your approach to bi-literacy development?

This is a complex issue and the strategies advocated in the blog post linked above are indicators that a school makes bi-literacy an important part of its classroom instruction.

We wish you the best in your search for the best fit preschool or kindergarten for your family. If you have any questions regarding add.a.lingua dual language immersion programs, contact your add.a.lingua partner school’s immersion program director or send us a note at

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say ¡hola! to Grand Haven Christian School, our newest Spanish immersion partner program

The entire add.a.lingua team is pleased to welcome Grand Haven Christian School to our growing list of partner programs around the nation!

GHC is enrolling now for their inaugural Spanish immersion kindergarten class in fall of 2017. Interested families can get in touch with the school to learn more at 616.842.5420.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with Grand Haven Christian School, and are really excited that families in the tri-cities will have a quality dual language immersion option for their children,” shared add.a.lingua co-founder, Stacey Vanden Bosch. “When you look at how our nation and economy are changing, multilingual education makes sense on so many levels.”

“Grand Haven Christian’s leadership team has taken their time to evaluate this option thoroughly, and has really put their school and their future students on the path to success with dual language immersion education. It will be our pleasure to partner with them to serve the tri-cities area,” added Lilah Ambrosi, add.a.lingua co-founder.

“Grand Haven Christian is excited to offer this unique opportunity to our community. The immersion model being offered, with the support of add.a.lingua, will allow our students to effectively learn a second language while achieving academic results equal to their monolingual classmates. We look forward to seeing how our future graduates will use the gift of a second language to serve God through their lives and careers,” said James Onderlinde, principal of Grand Haven Christian School


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 nation, 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. We’d love to connect!

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make virtual instructional visits a part of your professional learning cycle

Do you believe in your teaching team’s capacity to grow? Do you want to help support their growth?

If your answer to those questions is yes (and why else would you be reading this blog?), we want to help you make virtual instructional support visits (VISVs) a foundational part of your professional learning cycle.

One of the most powerful things that a learning community can do to reflect on and refine their instructional practice is to watch themselves (and each other) in action. Virtual instructional support visits allow you to do just that.

“It was excellent! So nice to have your comments yet in such a positive way of helping us and guiding without intimidation…I can tell you are wanting us to succeed and making that time available is priceless for us! Thanks for all you do.”

Here’s how add.a.lingua facilitates VISVs with our partner programs and workshop clients:

  1. An administrator asks a teacher to film a 15-20 minute lesson.
  2. The teacher, administrator, and an add.a.lingua instructional coach all watch the lesson independently.
  3. The teacher, administrator, and add.a.lingua’s instructional coach come together for an hour to dialogue about what they all observed–from how the lesson targets for content and language came alive, student engagement, students’ immersion language production, etc.
  4. Goals are developed by the teacher based on what was observed in the video (what we call third point evidence) and the subsequent dialogue.

VISV blog photo-2.pngSome of our partners elect to conduct their VISV with just the teacher and an administrator. Others invite the grade level team or the entire teaching staff to observe the recorded lesson and to join in the dialogue.

Does that larger group interaction sound dicey?

Remember that the VISV isn’t about finding fault or identifying errors. It’s about growth–taking next steps to improve the craftsmanship of teaching.

“Sometimes an outside source reiterating what we’ve been trying to accomplish is what is needed to propel the change. Thank you.”

While the participation of a larger group requires thoughtful facilitation, the transparency of the process can have a significant impact on school culture by communicating (again) that the school’s leadership believes in their team’s capacity to grow, and is eager to provide them with time and space for intentional dialogue.

“It’s refreshing for the teachers to hear a voice other than mine or their own talking about immersion practices, especially someone that they respect and consider an expert.”

As you think about professional learning for your team this summer and fall, make the VISV a priority. There are few better ways to demonstrate and encourage the adoption of a growth mindset on your team.

In addition to an menu of workshops, we have openings for VISVs during the summer and fall months now. So if you’d like to work with an add.a.lingua instructional expert to schedule a VISV for your team, drop us a note.