A Kyrene academy that teaches full-time students in both English and Spanish is steadily growing in popularity.
The Dual Language Academy at Kyrene de los Niños Elementary increased in both grade levels and the amount of classrooms for the 2011-12 school year. The expansion brings the school one step closer to achieving Principal Ana Gomez del Castillo's vision of having it available at all grade levels.
In its inaugural year last year, the academy was specific to kindergarten and had two coinciding classrooms. How it works is that the kids have two teachers - one who teaches only in Spanish and one who teaches only in English. The students switch classrooms after lunch each day.
Those kindergartners have moved on to first grade this year while the kindergarten portion expanded into four classrooms.
The important thing to note is that there is no re-teaching being done. What they learn in Spanish, be it reading, math, social studies, is not relearned in English. The language they are taught the subjects in is swapped every quarter.
For example, if one classroom is taught reading in English the first quarter of the school year, those students learn it in Spanish the next quarter, and so on.
"Teachers are using the Kyrene curriculum to teach state standards in both Spanish and English," Dr. Gomez del Castillo said. "Kids at this age are able to grasp very quickly a second language."
She sees the progress continuing in the coming years. First-graders this year will advance to second grade dual language classrooms next year and they will continue to enroll kindergartners. The classrooms are open to any student in Kyrene who is proficient in English. Several families from the Ahwatukee Foothills area make the trip to Tempe because they said they understand how important it can be to learn another language growing up.
"The opportunities that will open up for (my daughter) will be greater because she is learning two languages," Taryn Scholl said of her kindergartner, Avry. "We knew we wanted to do this and so far she has been very excited about it."
Dennis and Cindy Contreras enrolled their daughter last year in the program and said they saw a "difference between night and day" in her ability to converse in Spanish.
"Both of our parents spoke fluently but she kind of missed out on hearing that," Dennis Contreras said. "The added bonus to the program is that she is learning all her subjects in both languages so we hope that it will become like second nature for her."
The kindergarten academy is still open for enrollment. To find out more information, contact (480) 783-4175.
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