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Park Elementary teachers, Nicole Dundas and Senor Saul Rodriquez, warmly welcome their K-1 students each day as they walk through the hallway. Over the ringing of the school bell children voices and laughter can be heard. “Buenos días Sra Dundas!” “Hola Senor Rodriguez!” As the students walk through the doors of the classroom shared by Senor Rodriquez and Mrs. Dundas, they are immersed in an unique learning environment. At first glance it looks quite similar to any other K-1 classroom you may find. Colorful pictures and letters line the walls, books fill the shelves, and small desks and tables invite students to play and learn. However, upon a closer look, you will notice on one side of the classroom the alphabet hanging on the wall is in Spanish.
For the past 14 years, Spanish instruction has been incorporated into K-5 curriculum for all Park Elementary students. However, the 2014-2015 academic year brought an addition to the Spanish instruction at the school. Park Elementary is currently in their pilot year of the Dual Spanish Language Immersion program in one of their three K-1 classrooms. Senor Rodriquez and Mrs. Dundas worked diligently together to plan a 50/50 delivery mode of instruction. Senor Rodriquez works with half the students for part of the day on Math and Science/Social Studies curriculum in Spanish. During that time, on the other side of the classroom, Mrs. Dundas teaches the other half of the class Literacy Skills in English. This non-traditional style of instruction may seem confusing to an outsider, but Principal Dewald is amazed at the excellent comprehension and enjoyment the students have shown with the program, “they are so excited to learn! In the hallways you will hear them speaking in Spanish to other students. All of our students and teachers have really embraced the program.” Recently, Park Elementary celebrated National Spanish Heritage month with all grade levels participating in the celebration.
Mrs. Dundas recognizes the additional dedication and teaching partnership needed to see a DLI program find success in a school, “Is it hard? Yes. Is it work it? Absolutely! But I can’t wait to enroll my child in the program someday. It is such a great opportunity and I am so grateful to be a part of it.” Collaboration time is spent sharing ideas and working together to facilitate the best learning environment possible for the students. While working with Senor Rodriquez students are completely immersed in a Spanish speaking environment. All instruction and discussion by Senor’ Rodriquez and the students is in Spanish. Mrs. Dundas also supports the program by utilizing Spanish vocabulary when needed in her instruction. “The program isn’t about excluding or sacrificing a native language, students are still tested on state standards in English and the curriculum is the same as other K-1 classrooms. Our students are just learning part of it in Spanish.”