Meeting the bilingual ed challenge

Katy Stonebloom, coordinator of English Language Development at
Aromas School, Aromas-San Juan Unified School District.
The experience of growing up among Latino immigrants, many of
them agricultural workers like her father, reinforced in Stonebloom
a strong belief that education was the greatest equalizer, giving
the poor and underrepresented a chance to overcome barriers that
had historically restricted their upward mobility.
Katy Stonebloom, coordinator of English Language Development at Aromas School, Aromas-San Juan Unified School District.

The experience of growing up among Latino immigrants, many of them agricultural workers like her father, reinforced in Stonebloom a strong belief that education was the greatest equalizer, giving the poor and underrepresented a chance to overcome barriers that had historically restricted their upward mobility.

“I became conscious at a very early age about the inequities in the system because I didn’t see everybody getting the same chances in school,” said Stonebloom.

As coordinator, Stonebloom oversees the 138 English language learners at the 400-student school, where, in addition to bilingual education classes, students are offered additional after-school instruction four days a week for 40 minutes.

Teresa Sermersheim, literacy coach/coordinator of English Learner Development program Burnett Elementary in Morgan Hill.

In her 15 years as a bilingual educator, Sermersheim has seen the methods used to teach English to children change.

In 1994, her school switched to a method in which several teachers presented the same material in English and in Spanish, depending on the day. In 1999, following the passage of Proposition 227, the school switched to English-only instruction, similar to a program that had been in place before.

“I was really saddened to have bilingual education curtailed because I saw the benefits of being bilingual,” said Sermersheim. “So often people say ‘Don’t you think kids should learn English?'” she says. “Yes, but bilingual means you add English to the language you already know and keep it going.”

Maria Gonzalez, teacher at Las Animas School in Gilroy

Maria Gonzalez knows what it’s like to be an English language learner. The daughter of a Peruvian and Brazilian immigrant now teaches children to become bilingual at Las Animas School in Gilroy, which offers dual immersion bilingual education, where students are exposed to equal parts English and Spanish throughout the day.

“I think the program is wonderful,” said Gonzalez. “I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

Her daughter is also a second-grader at Las Animas. “I’ve done a lot of research, and I just find that it’s the only model that excels in teaching students in both languages,” she said.

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