For 10 brilliant first-year students from Marcos de Niza, classes taught in a second language are no duel
Among the things Tempe’s McKenna Baker learned in kindergarten – along with sharing everything, taking a nap every afternoon, and not hitting people – is Spanish.
In the years that followed at Kyrene de los Ninos and Kyrene del Norte Primary Schools and Kyrene Middle School, McKenna took Spanish / Math, Spanish / Social Studies and Spanish / Science classes.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” said the 14-year-old.
Now McKenna is one of 10 freshmen in Marcos de Niza High’s new bilingual program. Launched this fall, it’s the only high school program of its kind in the Tempe Union School District and, according to district officials, the only one in Arizona.
Marcos offers two courses – Spanish and Science taught in Spanish – for first year students of the program. Next year he plans to add Spanish 4 and Spanish / World History for second year students. The school will further expand the optional program for its juniors (2023) and seniors (2024).
Kelly Muchmore, Spanish teacher and bilingual liaison at Marcos de Niza, said it made sense for the school to create the program as students from its primary schools arrive with years of Spanish in mind.
âIt’s a natural progression into high school,â Muchmore said, âand an opportunity for students to become multilingual. The United States lags behind its counterparts in teaching languages ââand languages ââspoken by the adult population, and this is due in large part to the fact that, historically, we have only started teaching them. than in high school or college. But kids learn faster and their retention is better, so the earlier we start, the more likely they are to be successful in this and others as well. “
The Marcos program is aimed at students who do not have a background in Spanish, rather than heritage speakers, although the latter can also enroll, she said. If the students do not have support at home to learn, read, hear and use Spanish, they can get it at school.
âLearning a second or third language is an overall benefit for students,â Muchmore said. “This can help them be more successful in their professional skills, but it also benefits their cultural awareness and sensitivity, and fosters diversity and inclusion.”
Additionally, students can earn college credit through Rio Salado Community College and the Arizona Department of Education’s Biliteracy Seal for their degrees and transcripts.
Marcos faculty readily accepted the new model, she said, to the point that a choir teacher wants to plan a concert with songs in Spanish.
âWhenever we have a program that positively impacts the children in the community and helps them prepare for the future, attracts motivated and study-oriented students, that program will be supported,â Muchmore said.
A third of the students’ school day is spent speaking and learning in Spanish. Teacher Laurie Varela said it was interesting to see how well the students were doing, given their bilingual programming in elementary and middle school.
âTheir vocabulary, their language is perfect,â Varela said, âbut how can we improve their writing and the use of more descriptive words? “
Class time also invites students to think more critically about their plans for the future, their opportunities to travel the world and broadening their horizons, she said.
McKenna enjoyed a mission from Varela to research and present a two-minute talk in Spanish about a person in the story who shares the teenager’s birthday. She chose Mayra Garcia, a beach volleyball player, who competed in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.
McKenna understands why Spanish is important.
âIt’s really more about getting a job and getting a higher salary because for any job it helps to know how to speak Spanish,â said the aspiring Disney host or player. professional volleyball.
She saw the benefit of knowing a second language two years ago on a road trip to Mexico. When the family car broke down, the seventh-grade student translated and negotiated the diagnoses and repairs between his parents and the mechanic.
Her father buys Spanish newspapers for her to read and translate, but otherwise she only speaks it occasionally at home.
âOnly out of spite,â McKenna said. “My parents don’t know Spanish, so when I try to annoy them I speak Spanish all day.”