Bilingual and potty trained, what more could a parent ask for?
Spanish teacher Delores Juarez has found a way to make learning fun for students at St. Theresa Catholic School.
Just ask any passing kindergartner and he or she is sure to say that class with Maestra Juarez is muy bueno.
That’s right, even 5-year-olds at St. Theresa are speaking Spanish, and with nearly flawless accents to boot.
“The kindergartners are very good,” Juarez said. “They learn the language better when they’re young. Right now they look at it as just another subject they have to learn.”
Principal Jeanette Holmes said learning Spanish is important.
“Children exposed to a foreign language as a young child have a better ability to adapt and learn the pronunciation,” Holmes said. “Young children just jump right in and mimic the accent.
“Living in California today, I think it’s a necessity that we learn Spanish. I feel we’re giving these kids a head start, and they’re so pleased with themselves. It’s such a confidence builder.”
Juarez conducts class in Spanish, asking that students raise their hands if they don’t understand.
“I can’t hear you if you’re talking in English,” she said. “We’re in Spanish now. Raise your hand if you have a question.”
Aaron Perry-Lennon raised his hand and asked Juarez, in Spanish, if he could use the bathroom.
Another student raised her hand, asking for a tissue. Juarez told her how to ask in Spanish, then had the girl repeat the question.
“I’m strict with them,” said Juarez, who is originally from Mexico. “But I think everyone is enjoying the class.”
Juarez uses a variety of visual aids and hand gestures to help students comprehend lessons.
“I understand because English is my second language,” Juarez said. “That puts me in a position where I can see how they’re learning the language. It’s new to them.”
The kids seemed to favor an exercise similar to “Simon says.” Juarez gave a command and students jumped up and down, shivered or fanned themselves in response.
Pretending to be cold or very hot, the kids repeated after Juarez, saying,”Tengo fro” and “Tengo mucho calor.”
“I like Spanish because we get to run and jump and walk,” Joseph Garrett said.
“And we don’t know all Spanish yet, but we’re learning it,” Janine Robertson added.
Chalk, rulers, pencils, pens and books were used for counting exercises and vocabulary lessons.
“It’s very visual,” Juarez said. “And phonics is very important. I make sure that they learn how to pronounce the words properly.”
Five-year-old Seth Kaufman looks forward to being bilingual.
“I’ll be able to speak English and Spanish,” Kaufman said. “And I’m only 5.”
Perry-Lennon said Juarez is a good Spanish teacher.
“I like it because if you don’t know how to say something, then you just say it in English and she (Juarez) teaches you how to say it in Spanish, then you say it again.”
Colors, numbers, classroom equipment and common phrases are just a few of the bases covered in a day of kindergarten Spanish.
“Octubre,” Juarez said, looking around.
Students born in October stood up.
“Ooh,” Juarez said. “Tres personas en Octubre.”
Juarez uses an interactive teaching method with first- through eighth-graders, as well.
“I stress phonics more with the upper grades,” Juarez said. “And they do oral presentations and written compositions. Last year’s eighth-graders went right on to Spanish 3 in high school.”
Holmes said nine out of 12 students tested beyond first year of high school Spanish.
“Nine students out of 12 tested out last year and they only had class twice a week one year and three times a week the second year,” Holmes said. “Now it’s kindergarten through fourth grade twice a week and fifth through eighth grade three times a week.”
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