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January 2, 2018 > Randall Elementary offers dual language immersion program

Randall Elementary offers dual language immersion program

By Rhoda J. Shapiro

As MilpitasÕ first and only school to offer a Dual Language Immersion program, Randall Elementary has created a vibrant, diverse community of students, parents, and educators.

On Friday, December 8, Randall hosted a tour for families interested in sending their children to a school where classes are taught in both English and Spanish.

"Milpitas is very diverse ethnically and linguistically. We started seeing people from all language backgrounds asking for a Dual Language program,Ó said Principal Carlos Salcido. "We started to look around in the Bay Area, and we were among the few schools that didnÕt have a program. We asked ourselves: Why isnÕt our district offering this kind of program to our students?Ó

For almost four years, Salcido has served as principal of Randall. Before that, he was principal at River Glen School in San Jose, that also had a Dual Language program. It was in 2016 when RandallÕs Dual Immersion program first started, offering Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and Kindergarten classes. This year, as students moved up a grade, Randall started offering Dual Immersion to First Grade as well. Fifty percent of RandallÕs student population is Latino, so diving in to a language program that was based in Spanish seemed like a perfect fit.

In order to have the right elements, a Dual Language Immersion Program must consist of students who are well-versed in each language. At Randall, both Spanish speakers and English speakers attend across all five Dual Immersion classes. With this mix, students are able to learn from and support one another.

"The teachers are conscious of who their Spanish speakers and Spanish learners are. So they set up pairs to talk to each other. So you have a strong Spanish speaker and a Spanish learner. They purposefully set up the tables, the carpet time, so that the students can work with each other. There are a couple times during the day where the students choose where they go for spontaneous language. ThatÕs the beauty of two-way immersion. You have both language groups together, and they learn from each other,Ó said Principal Salcido. ÒThat social language becomes so strong in pushing both languages.Ó

RandallÕs program has infused students with a deep appreciation for languages and other cultures. Kids are empowered to connect and to expand beyond what theyÕre accustomed to. "One thing we didnÕt anticipate is empathy between the students,Ó said Assistant Principal Olivia Contreras. "Some that already knew the Spanish language were helping and assisting. The culture within the classroom is empathetic. ThatÕs a beautiful thing I noticed.Ó

With each new year, school administrators plan to add another grade level for Dual Immersion, which means that eventually the entire school will fall under that curriculum.

So, what happens to the teachers who donÕt speak Spanish and have no bilingual teaching credentials?

ÒThere was this fearÉÓ said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Norma Rodriguez. "Because we started with TK and Kinder, and then we added First grade. And there was a fear that those teachers who speak only English whoÕve been here forever would feel unwanted. But the teachers are excited about being a part of this. They say that Randall needs this program, that Milpitas needs this. They support the program. ThereÕs no division. There was a lot of intentionality in the way it was created.Ó

As all grade levels transition to Dual Immersion classes, teachers at Randall will be granted first choice of any openings at other school sites. And teachers who are bilingual, but may not have a credential, are thinking of getting it. They all realize that the appetite for RandallÕs new program is immense.

Naveen Ancha, who was born and raised in India, speaks five different languages. He brought his daughter Haraka, age 3, to RandallÕs Dual Immersion tour, hoping for her to nurture a love and understanding of different languages and cultures, as well. "IÕm thinking of signing her up for TK in 2018,Ó said Ancha. "And the reason is, the more languages they learn, the more it opens up their minds.Ó

Studies have shown that Dual Immersion programs are of great benefit to a childÕs cognitive development. Ed Berbena, whose daughter Allison just turned 7, can attest to that. He has seen the ways in which his daughter has blossomed. Allison began Randall's Dual Immersion program in Kindergarten, and is now in First Grade. At a parent-teacher conference, Berbena was told by AllisonÕs teacher that she was already reading at a level four Ñ two levels beyond the norm for someone her age. Berbena was astounded.

ÒThis has awoken my daughter to something I didnÕt know she had,Ó Berbena said.

Assistant Superintendent Norma Rodriguez is thrilled about all the enthusiasm for RandallÕs program. ÒThis program...all of this has been like a jewel waiting to be awakened and shown to the world,Ó she said. Ò itÕs known that thereÕs something great happening at Randall.Ó

To learn more about Randall Elementary and Dual Language Immersion, go to:

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