We are excited to hear that the Wenatchee School District has been planning to redesign dual-language learning in the district. As parents of students who have benefited greatly from the opportunity to attend a dual-language school, Lewis and Clark Elementary School, we want to support the district as they continue their commitment to this valuable educational system.
Bilingualism is a hugely marketable skill that will help students long into their future, making them more employable and knowledgeable about the community around them. Bilingual education also opens doors in a global economy and helps the next generation curate a greater understanding of community members in groups outside their kin. In addition, bilingualism prepares students for success long after they leave the classroom. Perhaps more importantly, language is a valuable component of culture. Communities gain creativity and demonstrate inclusivity when we expand our cultural ways of knowing.
We are fortunate to have a dual-language school in our district under the leadership of Alfonso Lopez, the 2020 Principal of the Year in Washington state. Lewis and Clark Elementary is the only school in our community that offers dual-language education. In fact, both of our families chose for our children to attend Lewis and Clark specifically for that reason.
I, Eloise, am a mother to first- and third-grade students, and I love witnessing how my kids are growing and becoming global citizens. As a former member of the Peace Corps, I’ve always valued other cultures and multilingualism. I love that my kids are able to sit down at a table with people who might not speak the same language as we do at home and still communicate and feel a sense of belonging.
For me, Karina, the ability to speak English and Spanish is very important for our family’s culture. I have a fourth grader who attends Lewis and Clark and a kindergartener who will attend Lewis and Clark next year. I am an immigrant from Ecuador and my husband is Mexican-American. Every summer my Spanish-speaking mother visits us from Ecuador to see her grandchildren. The dual language learning program connects my kids with their grandmother as well as their father’s family. It also helps us preserve an important part of our cultural identity and heritage.
As parents of Lewis and Clark students, we’ve seen firsthand how the deep learning provided to them through dual language changes how they show up in the world. It helps students go from surviving to thriving and learn the value of helping one another. We deeply value the opportunity for our kids to learn in English and Spanish, and we know many other parents feel the same.
Based on the successful program that already exists in our district, there is an opportunity to create a blueprint for other area schools and take the dual-language program to the next level. We envision a bright future for the dual language program in our schools now that all Washington State students will have the opportunity to become proficient in two or more languages by 2030.
As parents who have experienced the benefits of their children collaboratively learning in English and Spanish, we offer our support to the district to identify strategies that would be beneficial to gradually scale up the program. While we recognize that not everyone may understand the unique opportunities that come with dual-language learning, our positive experiences have shown us just how much our children can thrive in this educational system.
Understandably, there are concerns from some non-Spanish-speaking teachers about the potential impact expanding a dual-language program could have on the makeup of our faculty. That is why any decision must include a slow transition that supports the needs of the community and the wonderful educators we have in our valley. We know our district leaders are working hard to hear from all stakeholders as they prepare different models of learning.
As the Wenatchee School District plans on what should come next for the dual-language learning program, they should keep these benefits in mind and take the opportunity to build up the program. Wenatchee can go above and beyond by continuing to invest in dual-language learning. The district even has the opportunity to continue to be an example for other regional schools and neighboring districts. As parents of students who have greatly benefited from the opportunities that the dual-language program has to offer, we want to support our school district leadership in whatever way possible.
Eloise Barshes is the co-president for Lewis and Clark Elementary School PTSA.
Dr. Karina Vega-Villa is the co-president for Lewis and Clark Elementary School PTSA. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (732) 648-4650.