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Dual Language Immersion Thriving in South Pasadena Schools
Posted by: Sylvia Carroll Published: 10/20/15

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SOUTH PASADENA –At Monterey Hills Elementary School, twenty-four Kindergarten students begin their day in the classroom of Spanish Dual Immersion teacher, Maestra Sandra Salas, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the days of the week, all in Spanish. The program follows a 90/10 model in which 90% of the school day is taught in Spanish and 10% is taught in English.


“Words don’t escape me when I am asked to describe our new program: increible, fabuloso y magnifico!” said Dr. Laurie Narro, Principal of Monterey Hills Elementary School. “We are so excited about the implementation of DI (dual immersion), as the three essential components necessary for an excellent program are in place: the right teacher, the right instructional strategies, and the right curriculum. Maestra Salas has many years of experience and utilizes appropriate strategies that are building the fundamentals of language and mathematics in Spanish for our students, and has created a classroom community that supports the acquisition of a second language. Maestra Salas is using songs and chants, and provides routines and structures to develop the students’ language. She also incorporates strong, Common Core aligned instructional materials in language and mathematics. Everyone who has come to visit leaves smiling and exclaims, ‘Wow! The students are so engaged!’”


On September 17, 2015, the District’s Dual Immersion Advisory Committee met to bring forth a school site recommendation to house the Mandarin Chinese Dual Immersion Kindergarten class for the 2016-2017 school year.  The Committee, comprised of community members, elementary teachers, elementary site administrators, and a district administrator, agreed that the composition of existing school site staff is important to support any dual immersion program. Mrs. Salas and Mrs. Jessica Zavala, the Assistant Principal of Monterey Hills Elementary, both have held positions in other dual immersion programs, and gave testament to the importance of having school staff on a campus that can support the targeted language of the dual immersion program. Implementing a dual language program in a school that has teachers or staff who are bi-literate, bicultural, and bilingual is essential to the program’s success. The Committee learned that Marengo Elementary had a great number of staff members who matched the criteria. Additionally, through the community-wide survey conducted during the 2014-2015 school year, a significant number of Marengo families expressed an interested in a Mandarin Dual Immersion program. At the conclusion of their discussion, there was consensus among Committee members to recommend placement of the new program at Marengo Elementary School. Mrs. Katy Nielsen, former District Dual Immersion Coordinator and current Assistant Principal of Marengo Elementary, informed the Board of the Committee’s recommendation at the October 13th Board of Education meeting. Mrs. Nielsen will be actively supporting the program, and her knowledge and background were discussed as positive assets.


Mrs. Kim Sinclair, Principal of Marengo Elementary, stated, “We are very excited that the District’s Mandarin Dual Immersion program will begin at Marengo Elementary School. Our teachers and staff are committed to preparing our students for the 21st Century by becoming bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural. We are confident that the Mandarin Dual Immersion program will be a great addition to the many fabulous programs that exist at Marengo.”


Interested parents are invited to attend the Dual Immersion Parent Information Meeting on February 4, 2016, to be held from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the District Office Board Room.


More information on the District’s Dual Immersion Program can be found on the District website – www.spusd.net.