Elle Creighton and Yesenia Carbajal were some of the first test subjects of an experiment in Woodstock School District 200 that began with 30 Mary Endres Elementary School students in 2004: Put learners who spoke different languages into one classroom and have them help each other learn both languages.
It was successful and turned into District 200′s acclaimed dual language program, in which about a third of the school system’s students participate today, splitting their days with classes taught in English and Spanish, according to a district news release.
Now, after graduating from Woodstock North High School in 2016, Creighton and Carbajal are a part of the program again as educators, with each young woman’s professional start bringing them full circle back to their local roots.
“The class was mixed. We had students who came from strong Spanish backgrounds. We built relationships,” Creighton said in the release. “They would help us with our Spanish and then we would help them during English, and so it created a super-positive relationship and it really helped us.”
The students in that 2004 elementary class formed bonds by helping each other to learn Spanish and English, languages that, respectively, were unknown to the families of Creighton and Carbajal.
Creighton said she remembers Carbajal as one of the strong Spanish speakers in class who was relied on for help.
Both women are excited to provide the same opportunities for today’s students.
Creighton is a new first-grade dual language Spanish teacher at Dean Street Elementary School while Carbajal is completing her student teaching at Woodstock High School and will start teaching Spanish full time at Creekside Middle School in the fall.
“The dual language program is something that’s very special to me. It really made me who I am, so I’m really excited to teach in the district, and in the dual language program specifically,” Carbajal said in the release.
Kelly Krueger, the District 200 assistant superintendent overseeing the dual language program, said having former students return as teachers is a perk for the district.
“While the original intent was to provide an opportunity for students to become bilingual and biliterate, we are so excited that former graduates of the program are now coming back to teach in our district,” Krueger said in the release. “Yesenia and Elle are great examples and role models for our children in the dual language program of how becoming bilingual and biliterate can benefit you in a multitude of ways.”
The parents of both Carbajal and Creighton are glad they took the opportunity to have the young women learn equally in both languages when they were in elementary school, the teachers said.
“We were together as a team. We had to interact with each other. We had to communicate whether it was in Spanish or English with one another to be able to be successful. Right from first grade it started,” Creighton said. “It was just a super-cool experience to have that community within our little classroom.”
More than different languages were shared in the classroom, too. Each teacher said being immersed in the culture of the Spanish-speaking world was an important experience that contributed to their decisions to pursue it teaching as careers.
It became clear to Carbajal she wanted to be become a teacher while taking Advanced Placement Spanish courses at Woodstock North.
“That really helped me connect with the language – the history and the culture, which made me realize I had a real passion for it,” Carbajal said in the release.
Source: The Daily Chronicle