This month, we are honoring the wonderful dual language program, Truscott Dual Language Immersion Elementary School, a member of the Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado. Thompson Schools wanted to invest in a program that would more soundly support and academically provide more access and equity to heritage and native learners by learning content in both Spanish and English. Realizing that our world is becoming more and more interconnected globally, and that their local community was seeing a growth of opportunities where languages were needed, their leaders wanted to provide more ways for more students to become multilingual and multiliterate. District leaders organized a team to research dual language options. From the research and community meetings, the team presented a 50/50 dual language option as the best fit for their community. This was a big step forward for the Thompson School District for many reasons and began their path to dual language excellence.
TSD leaders created a team of principals and other school leaders who were charged with reviewing different dual language programs. Our biggest source of information came from the Utah Dual Language Immersion program leaders. The team consulted with them and they helped our build this 50/50 model that would be the framework that would most resonate with our community. The team presented the concept as several community forums where the interest was high. —Karen Hanford, Truscott Dual Language Immersion Elementary Principal.
So, their team put together a proposal for the school board, and it passed! However, when the proposal passed, it was March, and the school district decided that they would open the new dual language programs in two schools in August. They were in a predicament, and much had to be done in preparation for the students’ arrival. So, the team moved into high gear and designed a basic curriculum map, hired teachers, found materials, and set the program in motion. Since Utah has a strong orientation program, new Spanish and English teachers, principals, and other district members headed off to Utah for a four-day seminar to get trained in dual language. Since the team was there for several days, everyone was able to create a bond to benefit their future students. This type of training helped to strengthen the program, allowing them to open effectively that August.
The strongest part of the implementation process was the team building that occurred. Because of the team building and collaboration with leaders, district personnel, Spanish teachers, English teachers, families, and other members of the community, we felt confident in launching the dual language program. We were also able to take our new knowledge we acquired through training and make it our own. —Toni Theisen, TSD Dual Language and World Language TOSA
It is also important to acknowledge that the principal, Karen Hanford, was a big piece of the success at Truscott. She was the first principal to request having the program at Truscott, as she had experience working with ELL students and working in a bilingual program. She can also speak Spanish, which makes so many families feel welcome. The program is now in its fourth year in building this very popular program. Every year, they examine what worked and the changes they need to make to help serve all students. Karen plays a tremendous role in the school and district success of this program.
They attribute much of the program’s success to working with the Utah Dual Language Network. Since they have worked to refine so many aspects, they did not need to start at the ground level. This is truly attributed to the success of what can happen when dual language programs work together, and how state networks can add to the success of programs. Utah has been instrumental in helping launch many programs in the Western States, and the Truscott program feels like they can really depend on Utah’s help. They have reached out to other programs to share what they have learned and mutually they share back.
I feel that the Dual Language community in the United States is growing rapidly and it is so positive that we all want to to have successful programs. We believe that having “languages for all” will make our country stronger. Take the time to invest in creating DLI schools because they provide opportunities for students who may not have a chance to excel and to feel a part of a school community by supporting growth in their native language. And if possible, take at least a year to study and implement it. Even though the team organized and got the program off the ground, more time would have been better. But sometimes you just need to “go with the flow” and grab the opportunity when it emerges. —Karen Hanford & Toni Theisen
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