Before they cross the stage at graduation next month and receive their high school diplomas, a select group of seniors recently gathered back at the place their education began- Esparza Elementary School in Northside ISD.
The fourteen students are the first dual language graduates in Northside. In the fall of 2001, they started first grade at Esparza as part of the district’s first group of dual-language students, which was then a bold instructional initiative.
The dual language immersion program was established in Northside for both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students. The goal is for students to achieve literacy and fluency in both languages by the end of fifth grade, while meeting or exceeding Northside and state curricular standards.
When the program began at May and Esparza elementary schools, instruction was initially 90 percent in Spanish and 10 percent in English. By the fifth grade, instruction is 50 percent in Spanish and 50 percent in English.
“We called them the pioneers,” says Melva Matkin, retired Esparza Elementary School Principal. “It was a big step for them and their families to take a leap of faith and try something new. It was our vision and hope that this dual language program would be a big asset for these students because they would become fluent in two languages.”
After traveling through elementary and middle school together, the students now attend Business Careers, Communications Arts, Holmes, Jay Science Academy, Warren and Health Careers high schools. Next year, the group will scatter in even more directions as they begin college and careers.
The celebration in the Esparza library was for the students, but also for their families, former teachers and former administrators. In fact, their first grade through fifth grade teachers all attended, even though not all still work in Northside.
“I’m so proud of the accomplishments of these students,” says R.C. Rodriguez, Director of Bilingual/ESL. “They participated in 7 years of learning so they could become bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural. With their advanced Spanish language coursework in middle school and high school, these students will graduate with college credit.”
The dual-language immersion program is offered at Esparza, Howsman, May, Passmore, Villarreal and Wanke elementary schools and at Stinson and Ross middle schools.
For more information, go to the program’s website- http://www.nisd.net/bilingualesl/dualanguage/index.htm.
Back Row - Christina Sanchez, Josue Ponce, Franchesca Garcia, Samuel Losoya, Yvonne Contreras, Julio Juarez, Erick Vasquez and Jared Almazan
Front Row - Sefer Sosa, Jennifer Rocha, Christine Rosas, Diamond Diaz, Celeste Camacho and Kathie Hernandez