School and business leaders took a unique Red Carpet Tour of two local
elementary Dual Language Programs recently, as part of the San Diego
County Office of Education’s Strategic Plan to raise awareness of world
languages and their importance to workplace readiness.
“Everywhere else in the world, students speak two languages, at least,”
said County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward, from the front of the
yellow school bus that transported the tour’s 32 participants. “What
languages do for our children, in terms of preparing them for the
workplace, is obvious. There should be an opportunity for every parent
to have a language option in their community, or in their school
The tour made two stops: Nestor Language Academy in the South Bay Union
School District in Imperial Beach; and Riverview Elementary School in
the Lakeside Union School District. Participants heard program overviews
at each school before visiting classrooms with staff members.
In classrooms at both sites, participants heard students who’d never
spoken another language before this year calmly respond to questions in
Spanish. There was no anxiety, no acting out; just classrooms of tiny
children working 100% of their time in a new language. And at Riverview,
they saw students as young as third graders receiving instruction in
Mandarin Chinese as well.
Staff at both schools spoke glowingly of their program’s impact. They
said students in both programs have improved achievement across the
board, in addition to acquiring a new language.
“I was very impressed with the children, and seeing how well they were
responding and following along with the writing,” said Manuel Paul,
Superintendent of the San Ysidro School District. Paul said his district
board is considering a similar language program.
In addition to San Ysidro, representatives from six other school
districts also took part: San Marcos Unified, Fallbrook Elementary,
Alpine, Escondido Elementary, Dehesa, and Lakeside. Businesses taking
part included AT&T, Wells Fargo, Costco, Union Bank, Radio Latina
and Harrah’s Rincon.
Several business representatives were quick to cite the advantages that
dual-language speakers have in the job market. Veronica Cadwalader of
Wells Fargo said Spanish skills are essential for new hires, more
important that previous banking experience.
Said Stacey Larson-Everson of the Fallbrook Union School District, “It
was impressive to see the children us their new language in a natural
way, answering questions with full sentences. They’re really learning
the language, not just the vocabulary.”
Larson-Everson said her district was in the “very early stages” of considering a dual language program.