Dual immersion hits
the valley for lucky kids
Express Staff Writer
and Anders VanCalcar are friends. After a year in a dual immersion class
at Bellevue Elementary School, they play at each otherís houses. Their
mothers read to them in English and then Spanish.
immersion kindergarten class meets at Hemingway Elementary School
during a Spanish portion of the dayís class. Back row, left to right:
Anthonya Romero, Christina Contreras, Brenda Carrillo, Isabel Kirk, Ellie
Punnett, Katia Reyes In front, left to right: Nate Nasvik, Jessica Hurtado,
Sole Vargas. Express photo by Dana DuGan
VanCalcar is not proficient in Spanish, this gives her son a chance to
listen to stories in Spanish outside of the classroom. The same goes for
Omar and his mother, Leslie Ocampo, who get more opportunities to work on
kids may never have spoken a word to each other, despite the fact that
they go to the same school, if it werenít for the dual immersion program
now in effect at both the Bellevue school and Hemingway Elementary School
In 1992, a
mere 10 years ago, there were approximately 55 students in the Blaine
County School District who fell into the English as Second Language
category. Today, there are nearly 400 such students. "Weíre long
past the idea that itís not a big part of Blaine County," Bill
Quann said last week.
currently a teacher at the Hailey Elementary School, helped initiate the
ESL program based partially on the directives gained three years ago at a
meeting with the school board and the community. Quann said the fact that
the community was really concerned about the issue was an "eye
opener. They wanted the students served and served well."
of educators and administrators was formed to study the issue and visit
model programs with dual immersion classes.
committee included several ESL teachers and was comprised of Quann, Stacey
Roth, Tristan Ellison, Kathleen Diepenbrock, Hal Bingham, Carey Principal
John Peck, Jamie Harding and Peggy Hills.
Diepenbrock works most closely with the program. "I have continued to
support and coordinate the start-up phase of the grant implementation in
collaboration with Heidi Copeland, the project coordinator, and Blake
Walsh, the project director." Blake, director of Special Services for
the school district, wrote the grant proposal for the program. The federal
grant is from the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language
been an ongoing advocate for the needs of the limited English proficient
students at Hemingway. She modified reading recovery lessons to be taught
in Spanish, and supported Spanish literacy development in the first grade
board members have been very positive in their interest and support of
this pilot project," Diepenbrock said.
members, Howie Royal and Claudia Fiaschetti made visits to model programs
in Oregon when the grant was being proposed last year.
school in Bend they found that "The success was phenomenal,"
Quann said. "Kids were truly bilingual and doing even better than
kids who werenít in dual immersion."
finding backs up a comprehensive study conducted by George Mason
University researchers Wayne P. Thomas and Virginia P. Collier, concluding
that children in two-way bilingual programs out perform students in one
language classes. Their federally financed project took a long-term look
at such students, and their records from 1982 to 2000.
County program, which begins in the kindergarten classrooms and will feed
them though the first and second grades, has two teacher teams. One team
is for the 40 students in the program at the Bellevue Elementary School,
and the other teaches the 20 students at Hemingway Elementary School. The
Bellevue program has a full morning program and an afternoon program.
parents were eager to enroll their kids in the program that the school
district reluctantly held a lottery last summer to fill the few spots.
Cindy Kirk, who regularly volunteers, said, "Itís such a great
of teachers, Juan Salamanca and Geri London at Bellevue, and Heidi
Copeland and Karen Bliss at Hemingway, incorporate Spanish and English
into every lesson, and alternate leading the classes. Salamanca also
teaches parents of ESL students in the evenings. The program includes many
cross-cultural aspects of the curriculum. This week, for instance, they
celebrate the Day of the Child, a Mexican holiday, with their families at
a park in Hailey.
are already apparent These 5- and 6-year-olds respond to the teachers in
either language and interact with each other, which is especially
gratifying, said Copeland. Where there used to be segregation in the
classes, due to ESL students being pulled out for special education, now
the class acts as a whole with intermixing between the language groups.
school day, the students spend time at activities like art, math, drawing
and writing. Itís all "thematically arranged," said Copeland.
"It all ties together day to day."
bilingual parents integrate all the school districtís parent documents
are now translated, parent volunteers make personal contacts, and there is
a newcomer center for ESL families.
in Bellevueís classes all have a list of each other's phone numbers,
which allows for better after school interaction. When Jake Halopoff had
his birthday recently, all the children in the class were invited.
April 29, there will be an informational dual-immersion meeting at 7 p.m.
at Hailey Elementary School in the conference room. For more information,
contact Heidi Copeland 726-3348, ext. 211, and at Bellevue, Kathleen