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 Helping Students on Both Sides of the Border

By Jorge Cuevas Antillón, San Diego County Office of Education

Did you know that thousands of California studentsJorge Cuevas Antillón at a California Association for Bilingual Education binational training in Tijuana travel with their farm-working families to and from Mexico each year? In fact, there are thousands of students born in California who are now living on the other side of the border. Those are just some of the children our state superintendent of public instruction refers to as "students we share." There's a lot we can do together to help these students.

I worry a lot about our transnational students. They have so much to offer our region. Educators on both sides of the border have started recognizing the value of having students who are multilingual, multi-literate, academically rich in all subjects, and proficient in sociocultural competence. Those students will lead entrepreneurial businesses and enterprises to resolve this century's challenges.

This summer, I had the privilege of participating in a binational teacher training project in Tijuana for teachers from the states of California and Baja California. About 15 public school educators from California joined 15 teachers from Mexico. We spent a week studying how to support students who are learning a language while simultaneously learning other content. We visited schools and learned how each country works to teach students effectively.

Both the United States and Mexico share a commitment to support students who are immigrants and refugees. Much like our educators who study how to best educate English learners, teachers in Tijuana, Tecate, and Mexicali are learning how to support those learning Spanish. Their goal is to aid our students who were taught monolingually in English in California but must now learn to read and write proficiently in Spanish as well.

Our neighbors to the south are now interested in creating their own bilingual schools. They too see the value of having students learn in both English and Spanish. Having dual language schools in Baja California would also support students who are moving back and forth between the two countries. This was one of the reasons I participated in the project: to learn more about what our students experience south of the border.

This project proved that we are stronger when we work together. Teachers formed multinational friendships. Instructional coaches exchanged recommendations. Visiting college faculty established binational professional networks. As a representative from SDCOE, I too felt the incredible capacity of being part of a larger effort to do some good in this world.

Expanding our reach to positively influence transnational California students is just one example of how SDCOE leads towards a future without boundaries.