Voices Vol 41 No 4

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: Supervisors

On Moving From a Transitional Model of Bilingual Education

to a Two-Way Immersion Model

By JoAnne M. Negrín

One of the reasons I chose the Vineland School District six months ago was because of its K-12 bilingual education program. I feel very fortunate to work in a district that supports bilingual education with such dedicated and passionate faculty and staff. However, there is a great deal more that we can achieve. One of the ways I want to promote excellence for our students is by moving from our current transitional early-exit model to a two-way immersion (TWI) model for our bilingual education program.

We plan to start a pilot program next year in which two Pre-K and two Kindergarten classes will participate in a 50-50 English/Spanish TWI program. We hope to add a grade level each year as students progress through the program, allowing community demand to dictate how large the TWI program becomes and whether it replaces the transitional program entirely. In the future, we hope to offer instruction in sheltered Spanish at the secondary level for students of any language background. These plans should put Vineland in good stead when New Jersey adopts a Seal of Biliteracy.

Because this change is in its infancy, I believe the most important goals for this year are education and outreach. I have begun a monthly call-in radio program on the local Spanish-language channel where I can answer questions in a more casual format. As a non-native speaker, this was an intimidating idea. Still, I felt that in addition to the importance of the program for outreach purposes, broadcasting my slightly fractured heritage-speaker Spanish provides a strong statement about the power of bilingualism. It turns out that it’s not as painful as I thought it would be, though I’m exhausted after the show.

In addition, I have arranged interviews with the local print media, and I will have a bi-monthly article about the program and about bilingualism in general in the local Spanish-language newspaper. I spearheaded a district wide Bilingual Family Welcome Night, to be held on September 18, where we will have food, music, dancing, and lots of information about community and district programs. We have created a presence on Facebook and Twitter so that families who may be transient, or who do not have a computer at home, can stay on top of our activities using a smartphone.

Many families still express concern about having their children learn in Spanish, and I hope that this exposure to the program will help dispel those concerns. I am also working in the English-speaking community to impress upon them how important it is for their children to learn languages and understand other cultures. It is a lot of work involving odd hours, but, without the investment in people, it will be difficult for this change to be successful.

Successful bilingual programs also require a base of shared knowledge among educators. In addition to the necessary professional development for teachers, I am providing programming this year for all administrators in legal and administrative issues with ELLs. We have also been learning from others in the state that are doing things well. Non-language administrators need to see that these programs are not just desirable, they are also well within our current realm of possibilities.

JoAnne M. Negrín is the Supervisors’ SIG Representative. She is Supervisor of ESL, World Languages, Bilingual Education, and Performing Arts Vineland Public Schools and may be reached at jnegrin@vineland.org