Frenship boasts a Dual Language program that coaches Spanish speaking students from their days at Willow Bend Elementary, to middle school at Terra Vista, and through their senior year at Frenship High School. Upon the completion of their senior year, students involved in the Dual Language program will have earned their biliteracy certification, as well as the biliteracy seal on their diploma.
Senon Cruz, Frenship’s District Coordinator of Bilingual and ESL, said the program was started eleven years ago. He explained that the program’s first cohort are now juniors at FHS and will be the first class to graduate with those biliteracy accolades.
“It has been a lot of effort and collaboration from a lot of people,” Cruz said. “Working with counselors and administrators on each campus and working with people at Casey to make sure the program is consistent from elementary to middle school and then to high school.”
Cruz said growing up he was raised in an only Spanish speaking household. He said if he would have been able to have a program like this, his education would have been much different.
“During my childhood, I was in a classroom where I either had to sink or swim,” Cruz said. “There were no such things as these specific strategies and accommodations, or our Dual Language programand ESL programs that Frenship provides for our kids across the District.”
Robert Nunez, fifth grade Dual Language teacher at Willow Bend Elementary, said that he not only teaches his students to embrace their native language, but also gets to help them develop their identities.
“I get to participate in developing their identity, and with that, developing their culture, both as Americans and Latino Americans,” Nunez said. “With Hispanic Heritage Month, we get to study more about those Hispanic figures who have contributed so much to our community and our nation.”
Nunez said through his experiences and successes as a Latino American, he can proudly identify with his students and community members even more. He said each day he looks forward to fostering that same pride and connection within his students.
“It’s my goal to help students understand that anything is possible,” Nunez said. “I help them learn to believe in their strengths and in growing their knowledge about who they are and who they will become.”
Cristina Barragán, Social Studies Dual Language and ESL teacher at Terra Vista Middle School, said in her classroom she teaches in Spanish the same Social Studies curriculum that English-speaking students learn, to her Dual Language program students.
“Your language is what you use to relate to your family, to your past, to your upbringing, and the fact that these students English skills are growing, and their Spanish skills are also growing, increases their self-esteem,” Barragán said. “It is a challenge at times when they are learning about these two worlds, but the benefits outweigh the challenges.”
Barragán said she has Dual Language students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade and she enjoys watching them grow more and more each year as they are prepared to continue with their Dual Language journey in high school. She said her sixth-grade students feed to her from Willow Bend, where they have Robert Nunez as a Dual Language teacher.
“We do a lot of reflecting journals to keep up and retain when they learned at Willow Bend,” Barragán said. “The kids are amazing and watching them keep up with their English and with their Spanish is pretty amazing to watch.”
Barragán explained how she celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with her students, “For us Hispanic Heritage Month is every day. We celebrate our culture through our language every day. “
Gabrielle Colon is a Spanish I and II teacher at Frenship High School and the FHS Ninth Grade Center. She said she takes the time in her classes to reinforce the many Hispanic cultures as well as the different idioms.
“Many people don’t realize that there are twenty other countries besides Mexico that speak Spanish and identify with Hispanic culture,” Colon said. “I like to make sure they learn about the cultures from South America, the Caribbean, Spain, Africa and North and Central America, because I think that it is important for them to know the differences between the people of each country .”
Colon said her classes also celebrate Hispanic heritage every day and in doing so she introduces different cultures to her students, which help them understand all different types of people.
“I spend time talking about the different culture’s music, the different food, and just building more connections with their everyday lives,” Colon said. “I think it just enriches them and opens their doors to so many different things. When they grow up and they travel they can communicate with ninety percent of the world, and I think that is important for them.”