For 10 years now, students at Bishop Elementary School have been given an opportunity to be immersed in a foreign language. This year marks the fifth class of fifth- graders to graduate from the program.
The immersion class is a “unique and exceptional program,” said Teresa Eckland, Bishop Union School District bilingual coordinator. “Learning a second language in childhood is the best time to develop fluency, accurate pronunciation, and a natural ease of expression. They become ‘language experts.’”
Eckland explained that Spanish/English classes for language education in primary school began in 2001 when then-Bishop Union Elementary District was awarded a five-year federal grant. Principal Betsy McDonald said that initial grant kicked off the program and it has been going strong ever since. She added that there are no hidden or added costs to a dual-immersion class, just the cost of a teacher.
Since then, nearly 400 students have participated in this K-5 bilingual program. McDonald added that six years is considered the base-line for building a strong foundation of a language.
“The benefits students receive stretch beyond their school years,” Eckland said. “Students’ social and communication skills are enhanced. They expand their multicultural views and have future career and education opportunities.”
Eckland added she and the program wanted to thank the many principals, board members and superintendents, teachers, students, parents families and community members for their participation, collaboration, enthusiasm and support over the past 10 years.
“The program has had great success in achieving its goals,” Eckland said, “which are integrating native English speakers and native Spanish speakers for academic instruction in two languages; pursuing academic excellence with bilingual and bi-literate skills; developing pro-social skills and multi-cultural capacity in all students.”
On the last day of school, this year’s fifth-grade students celebrated by creating and presenting a bilingual show. The show had a Spanish-English grammar quiz show game, a U.S. states and capitols skit, a rap song about being ready for sixth-grade, a Mexican folkloric dance and a weather report for all the Spanish language countries of the world.
“Congratulations to Ms. Ablanedo’s fifth-grade class,” Eckland said with a cheer.
For more information on the dual-immersion program, go to http://www.bishopschools.org  and click on “Bilingual Services” then “Dual Language” or go to California Department of Education online at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/ip .