New dual language program expands students’ horizons

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These kids in Verena Stahler’s class may be speaking Spanish now, but for some of them, it’s their first time learning a new language -much less, being taught completely in Spanish.

“It’s great for the children who speak it at home have it at school, and for the ones who don’t have it at home to be able to learn it at school,” said Verena Stahler, kindergarten dual language teacher.

The program includes kids of all English and Spanish speaking abilities.

For half of the day, students are taught language arts and math in Spanish, and the rest of the day is focused on language arts, history and science taught in English.

And on day one of the the school year, Stahler said the brand new  program has been well received, enrolling two thirds of the kindergartners at Frederick Douglas Elementary.

She said the enthusiasm for language immersion comes as no surprise.

“I think that maybe they’re seeing the advantage of  doing that and at such an early age and that’s when you really want to start learning a new language.”

For Stahler, a native Dutch and Spanish speaker, learning a new language started at just seven years old. 

“I learned English and everything was fine but I always felt different and you know that was fine, but later on I found ‘wow, languages are my greatest advantage’.”

She said the advantages that she gets from knowing multiple languages are one’s she wants to share with her students.

“Connecting different things in life, maybe being able to relate to other people and broaden my mind because it is a global world out there.”

Sixty students are enrolled in the program this year, which is also open to pre kindergarten and first graders.  

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