Dual language headed for Battle Mountain | VailDaily.com

Dual language headed for Battle Mountain

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” About 30 kids who have taken classes together since second grade in the Dual Language Program are headed for Battle Mountain High School next year.

This will be the first group of students from the Dual Language Program to leave middle school, and Battle Mountain is finding ways to adapt the unique and popular program for the bigger world of high school.

The Dual Language program started in 2001 at Edwards Elementary with the mission of immersing students in both Spanish and English. The students in the program are split evenly between native English speakers and native Spanish speakers, and the students learn from each other as well as the teachers. Reading, math, science and social studies classes are conducted in Spanish and English.

The program caught on at Avon Elementary, and expanded to Berry Creek Middle School so students could continue the program as they got older. The students in the original class, now eighth graders at Berry Creek Middle School, are bilingual and biliterate.

“They are a very bright group of kids, and one of the goals of the district is to keep them challenged academically in high school,” said Jennifer Shank, director of English language acquisition in the district.

The challenge for Battle Mountain High School now is finding qualified bilingual teachers that can teach tough subjects at a high school level.

This first class of bilingual students will have a choice of taking a fourth year high school Spanish class as freshmen or even taking Advanced Placement Spanish, in which they can earn college credit. These are courses already offered at the school.

Beyond that, Battle Mountain knows the kinds of things it wants to offer, but has had a tough time hiring the right kind of teachers. Finding bilingual teachers is one thing, but finding bilingual teachers also certified to teach history, science, math and literature is much more difficult, Principal Brian Hester said.

“We have a difficult time finding highly qualified teachers in core academic content areas that can afford to move to our community,” said Philip Qualman, assistant principal at Battle Mountain High School.

Hester said one class he wants to offer is a Spanish and English literature class. And when they begin spring hiring, they’ll be looking for teachers that can teach that or any other subjects in both Spanish and English.

Part of the high school dual language curriculum could also be encouraging students to take on a third language. Hester said studies have shown that once you’ve become bilingual, it becomes easier to learn a third and fourth language.

Battle Mountain offers French and German classes, and Hester would even be interested in someday finding teachers in Chinese and Arabic.

When the Dual Language students become seniors, they’ll be able to start looking for bilingual internships in the community for class credit. There are several jobs in the medical and business field for instance that need bilingual workers, Hester said.

Or, students could do internships in the school district, becoming teacher’s aids in classes were Spanish speaking children are learning English, Hester said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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