Much of this you know. Kindergartners, ABC’s and 123’s. Only the Spanish variety.
“Listen to Ms. Penaloza they say” in a classroom steeped in Espanol.
80% of what you hear in this room happens in Spanish.
Teacher Brenda Penaloza said, “Lots of movement. Lots of you saw in the classroom where I have a picture of what we’re supposed to be doing. ‘Respetuoso’ is this. ‘Amable’ is this. So then they start making the connections.”
This is dual language learning, and it is a first for Washington Township Schools, but not for their teacher.
“I was 7 years old. It was difficult. It was very difficult for me. I would cry every day at school because I did not understand my teachers,” Penaloza said.
Penaloza’s experience explains why she was handpicked to lead one of only two dual-language classes in the entire district.
She understands how immersion can turn things upside down for some of these 5-year-olds.
“I did think about that a lot because my Spanish speakers would understand, and my English speakers would not. But they help each other a lot,” she said.
These 5-year-olds embrace the new.
Sydney Washington said, “So if someone who I know who’s my friend, so I know what they’re saying,”
“Fun, but it’s kind of hard,” said little Cameron Miller.
Genesis Alondra was born in Guatemala. A translator said, “And she came with her mom and her sister.”
Half of these kids come from English-speaking homes. The other half grew up speaking Spanish.
And the district plans to keep this group of kindergartners in a bilingual classroom every single day until they graduate high school.
Principal Brittney Brown said, “We’re trying to prepare them for a world of jobs that aren’t even created right now.”
The goal: See these kids speaking, reading and writing in two languages with ease.
So, 20 years from now when they bump into their teacher, and they say ‘I remember you!’
“Oh, they’re going to say that in Spanish!” Penaloza said.
The school went to Ecuador to recruit one of the teachers, and on Tuesday nights, those two teachers are teaching Spanish to the rest of the faculty.