Program helping students become biliteral, bilingual


Posted:// Mar 26, 2014 6:04 PM CDT

KILGORE, TX (KLTV) – Texas is leading the nation in two-way bilingual education. Many East Texas school districts have added dual language programs and some of them are teaching both English and Spanish to a combined classroom of native Spanish speakers and English speaking students.

More than 100 English language learners are the first students to enroll in Kilgore Independent School District’s dual language program. It’s a one way program for Spanish native speakers who will learn academically both Spanish and English.

“We have seen a huge chance already just with our pre-k and kindergarten cohorts,” said Kilgore IISD Director of Bilingual ESL Dr. Jennifer Bailey. “Our students are writing fluently; they are reading fluently.”

For the past 14 years, Kilgore ISD has offered English as a second language until now.

“We’re building academic Spanish where we’re becoming bi-literate and bilingual in Spanish,” Bailey said. “We’re growing them academically and taking out the language barrier, which helps students get on their grade level immediately.”

This may be a new addition for Kilgore but not for Chapel Hill ISD.

“It is easier for you if you start learning another language or many other languages when you are young,” said Jackson Elementary bilingual teacher Julissa Zea.

Chapel Hill has been offering a two way dual program for the past five years. Students can join the program in pre-k or kindergarten. Their Spanish speaking students are learning to read and write in both Spanish and English. Parents can place their English speaking students in the two way program so they can learn Spanish, also.

Julissa Zea was born and raised in Mexico and as a bilingual teacher she says this program is growing state wide because of the advantages for younger generations.

“The Hispanic population is growing. They need to be able to communicate with people in both languages,” Zea said. “More jobs will be looking for bilingual candidates. These kids are going to be the ones they need to hire.”

Bilingual teachers in region seven are provided with training and use the Gomez & Gomez model for the dual language enrichment program.

“It differs from the transitional programs, which are also state approved in Texas,” Bailey said. “Gomez & Gomez is very structured; they’re very supportive. Soon, we won’t have to split between ESL and bilingual.”

The program is offered currently from PreK until fifth grade. As students move into secondary education, more bilingual teachers will be needed.

“We want to advertise and recruit quality bilingual teachers, so right now we are in the process of starting interviews for next school year,” Bailey said.

The dual language program uses a language of the day to help students learn both languages at a steady pace. Teachers switch from English to Spanish each day. The only subject that is taught entirely in English is math.

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