ISLA’S Saturday school for Spanish speakers concludes first year
On June 1, the first class of students in Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition’s inaugural year concluded with a cultural celebration and presentation at St. Thomas More School.
Thirteen 4- to 6-year-olds, the first class of ISLA’s Saturday-morning Spanish class for heritage speakers, danced and sang in Spanish while parents clicked cameras and videotaped. ISLA is a nonprofit organization that provides a safe and nurturing environment for heritage Spanish-speaking children with the purpose of promoting literacy in their native Spanish.
The parents also prepared a cultural presentation for the young students and danced the Mexican folkloric dance, “La Chihuahua.” Mothers donned colorful skirts and the dads were dapper in black pants and white shirts. Aztec dancers from the local community also contributed to the folkloric environment.
Each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in one of the classrooms at St.Thomas More School, students meet during the school year to learn literacy skills in a language they speak at home but often do not learn how to read and write. They also study culture to foster pride in their native heritage. Classes will resume in the fall with two classrooms, one for 4-year-olds and one for 5- and 6-year-olds. Parents participate in parenting and English classes while their children are in class. They also make handicrafts including piñatas, jewelry and embroidery to sell to help support ISLA and to keep traditional Latin American artisan customs alive.
Vice president and lead teacher Allyson Cates led the celebration and expressed great pride in the successful first year, “The students’ academic growth has greatly improved this year. We have our own evaluating system and have communicated with ISLA students’ weekly classroom teachers, and parents have also noticed growth in their English work in the classroom. We are hopeful and confident that their skills are transferring from one language to another.”
Founder of ISLA, Aerin Benavides, a doctoral student at UNCG, has strong ties to Latin America as her late husband was from Peru.