“The district opened the Spanish Kinder Prep program to help prepare children and give them a foundation for the Spanish Dual Language program at San Tan Elementary School,” Patti Gleason, Early Childhood Director said.
Higley Unified also has a preschool Mandarin Exploration program at Cooley Early Childhood Development Center, along with an elementary Mandarin Dual Language program at Coronado Elementary School, both in Gilbert.
To start the day, the Sossaman students take turns discussing the days of the week in Spanish and English. Sitting on a colorful rug in front of their teacher, students introduce themselves in Spanish, saying “Me llamo,” which means, “My name is,” and their name.
The teacher, Shauna Weller, plans each activity to include the two languages. Colorful signs around the classroom state the names of items in Spanish and English. Students sing songs in Spanish because it’s easy and fun, and as a result, the kids can already count from one to ten and are able to identify their colors. The question of the day used to start all classes at Sossaman is translated into Spanish, giving parents and students an opportunity to review it in both languages.
Parents are excited about the new class for their preschool students.
“My husband and I were mainly raised in South Dakota, and in that area we didn’t have much diversity. Here, we have the chance to offer our children the opportunity to expose them to a new culture by learning Spanish. I feel that kids are like sponges, and can pick up languages at a very young age. We can see that even though our daughter is not fluent, she is understanding concepts and phrases. For us, this is very exciting because she is experiencing something that, as kids, we never had,” said Crystal Glaim, a Sossman parent.
Students who get early exposure to a second language learn it more quickly due to early brain development, studies show. As students’ progress in the language, they are able to carry it on through middle school and high school in Higley schools. Being able to know two languages is beneficial for young students as they grow into adults, better preparing them any future jobs and cultural experiences.