Kindergarteners at Lydia Hawk Elementary are learning in both Spanish and English. Two classes of students began the school year in North Thurston Public Schools’ new dual language program. Half of each day is spent in each language. The new dual language program is embraced by Principal Kathleen Delpino and her team-teaching duo of Diana Leon and Ciera Henderson.
Half of the youngsters live in the Lydia Hawk community and the other 24 students come from other areas of the North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) district. Parents have made commitments for their child to stay with the program at least through the fifth grade. These young learners are becoming literate and conversational in two languages and it takes time to build fluency in speaking, reading, and writing.
“My hope is that the program would go all the way to high school,” says Kathleen. She was instrumental in opening the visionary dual language learning and is enthused with the progress being made by all parties. The year did begin remotely, though the original plans had been for in-person classrooms. “I have two strong teachers who persevered,” she says about the need to attend school via Zoom.
Monica Stringer is one of the Dual Language parents. Her daughter Serena is a kindergartener. “I was so excited to get my daughter in the program,” she remembers. Although Monica is Latinx, she did not learn Spanish growing up at home. “My parents didn’t teach me Spanish, but I took it in high school and college,” she adds. The remote classroom provided Monica with refresher Spanish, and she loved sharing this with her daughter. “I am not fluent, but some is coming back to me now.”
Families can continue cultural ties. For example, Serena Stringer, a student, talked with her Spanish speaking aunt on the phone. She was thrilled her aunt used Spanish, not realizing that it was her primary language.
Half the students speak English at home, and the other half have access to Spanish. Ciera teaches English literacy and math (all in English) while Diana teaches Spanish literacy and science (all in Spanish). These students are young and only beginning to learn about appropriate classroom behavior, manipulating a pencil and working with others. Both teachers are skilled in language development and skill building for these hungry learners. Kathleen is pleased with the support received from the district as well as the instructional coach in the building.
“I am a mom with bilingual kids,” says Diana, who is originally from Colombia. She understands the reality of the challenges. She bubbles over with joy when talking about the Dual Language Program. “So many children can benefit from this enrichment program. Their world is expanding,” she smiles.
English speakers learn about another culture. Diana sees these youngsters blossoming into adults who have more skills for better jobs. Diana’s Spanish fluency is also helpful to parents with limited English skills. “I can communicate completely with families,” she says.
Ciera has been teaching at Lydia Hawk for several years. She has noticed that the program is already building self-esteem and confidence. Lydia Hawk has a large population of Spanish speakers, approximately 25%. Now being able to speak Spanish is viewed as a plus. Ciera notes another benefit. “I love that it challenges kids above grade level,” adds Ciera, who explains that the dual language aspect offers a built-in challenge for eager learners. “It’s my job to challenge kids,” adds Ciera, agreeing that there are multiple benefits for the students and their families.
Kindergarten classrooms entered hybrid session on February 1. Teachers and parents agree that students are happy to be back in person! Students are in school all day either on Mondays and Wednesdays, or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays offer additional time for support.
In-room classes will give students more opportunities to chat with each other and work on projects together. Can’t you see students having fun making a sweet salad while learning colors, fruits, vegetables, and tasty adjectives? Since families have been so excited about the program, Lydia Hawk is making plans to offer opportunities for families to learn alongside their students, including conversational opportunities.
Lydia Hawk Elementary School
7600 5th Avenue SE, Lacey