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Spanish teachers trying to connect

Cindy Ramunno

The Spanish teachers at Gypsum Elementary are reaching out – to the Latino community and the parents of Latino students at the school. Through this community outreach effort, Kim Chambers and Becky Cuevas have identified needs of both the Latino community and the school in an attempt to better educate Spanish-speaking students.

The duo say they want to bring parents, the community and the school together for an ongoing communications effort and teamwork approach to educating elementary-aged children. “We want parents to be more comfortable communicating with the schools,” says Chambers, who along with Cuevas, organized a pizza dinner and free child care for parents last week.”The school district does a good job translating information for parents, but we can always improve in those efforts,” adds Chambers.Cuevas’ husband, Robert, spoke to parents about his success in school and how sports helped him. Robert Cuevas – a native of Mexico who now teaches at Eagle Valley High School- also spoke about the high school’s drop out rate and how Latino students can be prepared and successful during their high school years.Parents were encouraged to support academics at home and to check out resources at the local libraries and the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District. Both entities are continuing to reach out the Latino community by providing information in Spanish and by recognizing and addressing the needs and wants of the Latino community. Also, scholarships for the valley’s sports activities are offers through the rec district and the Youth Foundation.This type of outreach isn’t new to the Eagle County School District. Meadow Mountain Elementary, Edwards Elementary and Avon Elementary schools each continue to reach out to Latino parents.”We make a concerted effort because we now how important it is to have parent buy-in to educating children,” says the district’s director of elementary education, Carolyn Neff. Most elementary schools have Spanish-speaking staff members and office personnel to help with communication, Neff says. The district employs a Spanish translator for special meetings and most flyers that come home with kids are in English on one side, Spanish on the other, Chambers says. According to last year’s numbers, the number of Hispanics attending Eagle County Schools was at around 42 percent. Of those students, around 32 percent spoke Spanish as their primary language. The district offers numerous academic programs for Spanish speaking students.At Gypsum Elementary, Becky Cuevas says she is most excited about getting Latino parents into the school to help with guided reading groups. It’s her belief that the children will benefit greatly from those parents participating, she says. “I think we are at the beginning of something great,” says Cuevas. “The parents are really excited about sports participation and reading – they want more information and they want to get started right away.” The elementary school also partners with Colorado Mountain College to provide English classes for Latino adults. Gypsum Elementary principal Mitch Forsberg says the efforts made by staff is appreciated by parents.”In the last few years Gypsum Elementary has made a very strong effort to reach out to all facets of the community. This is just the first of many ways we’ll continue to do this throughout the school year,” says Forsberg. “We really value the community buy-in and support of our school. Our teachers care about our kids and their families and what happens in and out of school.”Cindy Ramunno writes education stories for the Vail Daily. Vail Colorado


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