Children learn Spanish through dual-language program

Written by on September 9, 2015 in Featured, Uncategorized - No comments
Teachers at Archbishop Borders are native Spanish speakers who encourage the students through participation. | Photo by Gianna DeCarlo

Teachers at Archbishop Borders are native Spanish speakers who encourage the students through participation.
| Photo by Gianna DeCarlo

Archbishop Borders School, a Catholic school at 3500 Foster Avenue that teaches pre-k through 8th grade, offers a unique dual-language program which teaches Spanish and English side-by-side.

“As this community has changed over the years, with the very transient immigrant community, the school became more and more Latino,” said Alicia Amaral Freeman, the principal of Archbishop Borders.

Freeman said that her predecessor, Cathy Marshall, noticed that children were losing their ability to understand Spanish as they progressed through the grades.

Freeman saw this too while teaching at Hampstead Hill Academy. With this knowledge, six years ago the school decided to embrace a dual-language, Spanish immersion program. 

In the program, children are given two days of classes completely in Spanish, followed by two days in only English. On Fridays, the days are 50% English and 50% Spanish. The children, ideally, start this curriculum in pre-k. 

“The kids love it and the parents are so supportive. The word is getting out and we’re seeing that people are starting to see the value in this,” said Freeman. 

There are currently 189 students, 51 of which are new this year. Freeman said that the majority of them are from the Southeast, but some commute from as far as Bel Air and Annapolis just for the dual-language program. 

For example, in one classroom a group of kindergartners had a “Spanish Day”. They were learning about the months and days of the week, singing along to a song with a teacher who is a native Spanish speaker.

The goal is complete bilingualism said Patrick Gutierrez who is the school’s director of advancement. He said the teachers use different methods to communicate there ideas in the target language. He stressed, that if it’s a Spanish day, the teacher will never utter a word of English throughout the entire year.

He believes this will allow the children to become more fluent with a comprehensive knowledge of how to properly use the language. 

“We don’t teach Spanish, we teach school in Spanish. That’s what gonna help them not only to speak it, but read and write it and use it in the world. They’re going to be able to move on and utilize the language in the most ways possible,” said Gutierrez.

Along with the dual-language, the students are encouraged to immerse themselves in the learning essentials that act as building blocks for their continued education.

Gutierrez said the newly renovated Reading Room and a reading coordinator encourage the children to develop language arts skills.

“We’re doing more holistic education, well-rounded, mind, body and spirit. So when you look at things like language arts and how important that is as a foundation, those are the things we want to emphasize rather than just shoving facts in your brain that you can answer on a test and then forget when you leave.”

The new playground at Archbishop Borders | Photo by Gianna DeCarlo

The new playground at Archbishop Borders School
| Photo by Gianna DeCarlo

Archbishop Borders School is often in the shadows of the towering buildings surrounding it, making it a bit cloistered away. But they are adding a playground, which the school never had before. Freeman hopes this will open them up to their neighbors.

“This is kind of a walled community and it’s fortunate and unfortunate. It’s fortunate because it provides a private, safe, space and it’s unfortunate because it kind of closes us off from the community. So the idea is for this to act as a community playground,” she said.

There are also plans to build a space for an outdoor science classroom and to build a greenhouse on the premises.

The renovations were part of a 4-stage plan that would begin in 2012 until the end of the 2015.

Other upgrades include a spacious gym and staging area. Gutierrez they often host events there for the students, such as a steel drum performance and a lesson on the history of hip-hop during for Black History Month.

Also, the school received new technology, including a 3D printer that the children will be able to use. And, there will be after-school art enrichment programs and music lessons from a newly hired music teacher.

Gutierrez hopes this will help convince families who have been hesitant to use a private school to give them a shot.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into being rebranded as a community school. A lot of families yearn for a community school, but they instantly across private school off the list because they think neighborhood school means public school. But for us, a neighborhood school just means they’re a part of the community and involved in it,” he said.

He stated that the price point of Archbishop Borders School is significantly lower than traditional private schools and the children receive more comprehensive and focused education. 

“People realize the value of giving their children a second language early on and that’s what we provide to the best of our ability,” Gutierrez said.

For more information of the schools and its programs, visit www.abbschool.com.

by GIANNA DECARLO EDITOR@BALTIMOREGUIDE.COM

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