When you enter Ms. Afre’s 4th grade Dual Language classroom it is abuzz with activity. There is discussion, concentration, quiet reading, sharing, reflection, and- because they are kids- occasional giggling. Students are at stations working on reading, analyzing text, and answering each other’s questions as well as her animated questions in Spanish. One student listens to a fellow student read a text in Spanish and then offers feedback, “you read that really well, just one word was pronounced wrong.” Ms. Afre uses her whole body and voice to ask comprehension and opinion questions of her small group. She fist bumps and high fives her students while still managing to quell a situation arising in another group clear across the room (a sign of any skilled teacher). It is clear she has a deep passion for teaching and caring for her students.
From kindergarten to 5th grade each dual language classroom was alive with activity and the walls are adorned with student work in both English and Spanish as well as an American flag next to a picture of Frida Kahlo in one room. Pictures books in English and Spanish fill the book shelves of the younger grades and the students take deep pride in showing off their language skills. Spending time in the Dual Language Program at Miller Elementary in Westmont it is clear the teachers and leaders of the school are engaging their students in much more than just curriculum.
Students were eager to share why they love being a part of the Dual Language Program. 3rd grader Maxwell Hoover shared, “I think it is so cool because we go to Mexico for summer break and now I can talk to the people there.” 4th grade student Zohanna Coyle shared “What I like most about dual language is learning to write in Spanish!” Emelia Meza, another 4th grader added, “plus we get to make Spanish projects!” Giovanni Cruz said, “I really like learning to speak more than one language.” Robin Montgomery, a 3rd grader said, “I think it is really important to learn other languages to be able to help someone if they need something then I can help.” Abigail Martinez, a 4th grader added, “I like to translate!”
The Dual Language Program goes beyond teaching a second language though.
Mrs. Gonzalez, a 2nd grade teacher shared, “This program is about open mindedness and acceptance of one another. We learn together and focus on respecting and appreciating each other’s differences. I love to see them learn! They are like little sponges and it is so amazing to see them understanding.”
Ms. Afre, a 4th grade teacher who believes it is vital to help her student navigate in a global world shared, “For our students having dual language at the forefront of their life they will have the ability to interact and integrate and adapt to each other’s lives without merely accepting preconceptions.” She continued, “from an academic standpoint we are helping them to be globally confident, not just linguistically but also socially, emotionally, and culturally. They will have not only an academic but a social advantage in the workplace. We choose to come together on equal footing to create a platform of understanding.”
Ms. Moller, the Assistant Principal who is also bilingual stated that the Dual Language Program has grown into a program at the forefront of other programs, “we are raising the banner of biliteracy and bilingualism and as a new administrator I am excited to see all that has already happened in 6 years. We are already rolling out programs to the junior high.” As an administrator Ms. Moller hopes to create a vision about the great things students can do with their bilingual education, help teachers grow professionally in the teaching of Spanish, and to help more parents and students see the value and asset of bilingualism. “The district has a goal to graduate students from high school with the ‘seal of biliteracy’ so they can get college credit for language competency as this will set them apart from monolingual students.“ She is clearly proud of the great work in each classrooms and seeks to be involved in the day to day of the Dual Language Program.
A community member and parent of a 1st grader Leesa Lance shared why she feels grateful to be a part of the program at Miller, “Our school in general is a fantastic close-knit learning environment. Yet even more importantly for us, as a transracial family, I’m thrilled that my son’s learning experience is not simply one that teaches children to tolerate difference. But rather, his mind is being formed in a place that is empowering and encouraging him to celebrate diversity! The science behind the academic benefits of children having a dual language teaching experience is undeniable. And honestly that just feels like a bonus to the rich cultural and social emotional aspects of this outstanding program.”
Luke Jimenea, one of Ms. Afre’s students is learning more than just language. He talked about his cultural heritage from the Philippines and how being a part of the Dual Language Program has helped him appreciate language and culture even more. Luke shared, “I can learn another language because it is important to know more languages and we can even help teach others language like if they are from Mexico and we can learn from them too.”
He along with many other students are learning the importance of being a global citizen as a part of the Dual Language Program at Miller.
Bienvenidos to dual language at Miller.