LAWRENCE, Ind. – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and children are learning and celebrating the culture in the classroom. In fact, there’s one district that’s nationally recognized and is the longest standing and only K-12 dual language model in the state.
This fourth grade class at Sunnyside Elementary is made up of Spanish speakers.
“We are teaching mathematics right now,” said teacher, Beatriz Smith.
They’re learning math, along with all of their subjects in both English and Espanol. It’s part of the one-way dual language immersion program in Lawrence Township. Their teacher, Beatriz Smith sees it as a great advantage.
“I’m from another country, Hispanic country as well, and we have teachers from all over,” said Smith,
“We have different backgrounds, but we are one of them.”
And for the roughly 200 kids enrolled in the district program, Smith says, it helps foster their identity.
“It starts in first and second grade and kindergarten it’s 80/20 model. Third grade goes 70/30 and then from fourth grade on it’s a 50/50.”
That means, 50 percent of the instructional time in the classroom is in Spanish.
“One of the pieces that we’re seeing is that the idea that kids are truly bilingual and even in the classroom that you are at today – you can see it on the walls, and in the language that the kids are coming into both of them,” explained Edyza Deynes, the Principal of Sunnyside Elementary.
According to Lawrence Township’s website, last school year the district reported 27 percent of the district identified as Hispanic. As that number continues to rise, so does the need for programs. There’s also an English Learner program that serves Lawrence students whose first language is other than English.
The Spanish immersion program extends through high school. With 45 different languages represented among the student body, Deynes says it’s all about access.
“Not only is the language program great for our students, but our families have access to their classroom teachers, have access to the school in a different way because the language barrier is no longer a factor in that communication,” said Deynes.
Bridging the gap for Hispanic learners, so, they can grow in their education and their culture.
“It’s just very rewarding as a teacher and we also see that it’s going to benefit them,” said Smith.